Sanofi-Aventis’ increasing interest in consumer healthcare has seen the firm set up a vitamin and mineral supplements joint venture with China’s Minsheng Pharmaceutical Co.

Financial terms of the deal have not been disclosed but the French drugmaker will have a majority equity stake in the new venture. Minsheng, which has been a partner of Sanofi for over ten years and markets a big-selling multivitamin brand, 21 Super-Vita.

In 2008, the consumer healthcare market in China was worth 7 billion euros, according to Sanofi, and it is forecast to enjoy “continued double-digit growth over the next five years”. This will be driven by increasing consumer affordability, government focus on health awareness and prevention driving an already well-established trend for self medication”, it added.

Hanspeter Spek, president of global operations at Sanofi, said that “combined with our leadership position in vaccines, we will continue to contribute to preventative health care in China”. He added that "entering the world’s second largest consumer healthcare market is also a strategic move”, fitting in with the firm’s shift away from a reliance on branded drugs.

News of the JV comes days after Sanofi’s proposed $1.9 billion acquisition of the US toiletries and dietary supplements group Chattem received approval from the country’s Federal Trade Commission.