Strong sales of the diabetes treatment Actos has helped Takeda Pharmaceutical Co, Japan's largest drugmaker, post a 7.2% increase in net income for the year ended March 2007 to 335.81 billion yen ($2.84 billion), but the firm is predicting a slow-down in earnings for this year.

Group turnover fell just shy of 1.31 trillion yen while Actos (pioglitazone) brought in 336.3 billion yen, a rise of 37.9%, with US sales of the drug reaching $2.37 billion. The rise, Takeda says, was mainly attributable to the introduction of Medicare Part D which "has promoted the growth of the oral antidiabetic drug market" and it was also helped by the introduction of the combination product Actoplus Met (pioglitazone plus metformin) in the USA.

Blood pressure drug Blopress (candesartan cilexetil) posted a 8% increase in sales to 206.2 billion yen, though gastrointestinal drug Takepron (lansoprazole) was down 5.7% to 150.7 billion yen, as a result of patent expiries in Europe. Turnover from the prostate cancer treatment Leuplin (leuprorelin) was up 4.2% to 127.5 billion yen. New products Rozerem (ramelteon) for sleeping disorders and Amitiza (lubiprostone) for constipation contributed 10.3 billion yen and 5.7 billion yen, respectively.

A reasonable set of figures but Takeda admitted that sales of Actos could just grow at half the rate of last year as new-generation diabetes drugs start to take market share. In particular, it is casting a nervous eye towards Merck & Co’s Januvia (sitagliptin), a dipeptidyl peptidase-4 inhibitor that enhances the body's own ability to reduce high blood sugar levels without the weight gain seen with some other drugs. However, Takeda has its own DPP-4 inhibitor in development, SYR-322, and hopes to file a New Drug Application for the compound in the USA by mid-2008.

As for this fiscal year, net income is forecast to climb 13% to 380 billion yen and sales should be up 6.5% to 1.39 trillion yen, but profit before tax and extraordinary items is likely to come in flat at 585 billion yen. This is primarily due to earnings at TAP Pharmaceutical Products, Takeda’s North American venture owned equally with Abbott Laboratories which are likely to be hurt by reduced sales of lansoprazole, sold as Prevacid in the USA, and the absence of gains booked last year from the settlement of a legal dispute.

Overseas, Takeda is performing well, particularly in the USA, but sales in Japan were flat as government price reductions are preventing growth. Given this scenario, it is not surprising that the Osaka-headquartered firm is looking to expand abroad and is believed to have an acquisitions warchest containing$10 billion. A purchase in Europe, where the firm is fairly weak, has been called for by many observers, but its acquisition of the UK's privately-owned Paradigm Therapeutics in March for an undisclosed sum did not quicken the pulses of analysts.