The merger of Japanese drugmakers Daiichi and Sankyo will create a new leader in the Japanese market, ahead of top-ranked company Takeda Pharmaceuticals, according to analysts at Wood Mackenzie.

Based on combined year to March sales, Daiichi Sankyo will overtake both Takeda and Astellas, soon to be formed by the combination of Yamanouchi and Fujisawa [[25/05/04b]], with $4.5 billion dollars in sales and 7.2% of the Japanese market [[25/02/05a]] [[22/02/05a]]. Astellas will rank second with 6.5%, leaving current leader Takeda in third place with 6.1%.

The analysts note that, without the merger, Sankyo would struggle to retain its current ranking of third place, based on low-level or declining sales of some of its key brands, including the statin, Mevalotin (pravastatin). Meanwhile, Daiichi would have struggled to rise from its current tenth place, despite a healthy ethical drugs business, because of competition from domestic and overseas rivals.

The new company will be particularly strong in the cardiovascular and anti-infectives, and would also have a presence in the musculoskeletal/pain, metabolic diseases and the respiratory drug category, say the analysts. However, the strength in cardiovascular may lead regulatory authorities to request product divestitures. For example, as Daiichi has two platelet antiaggregants for the treatment of thrombosis – Panaldine (ticlopidine) and clopidogrel – Sankyo may be asked to sell off its prasugrel, partnered with Eli Lilly and currently in Phase III testing.

Daiichi Sankyo will also rank second in Japan for its research and development spend, with $1.1 billion paid out in the year to March, just behind first-ranked Astellas with $1.2 billion, according to Wood Mackenzie. Once again, Takeda slips into third place.

In light of this merger agreement, the formation of Astellas and Dainippon’s impending marriage with Sumitomo [[26/11/04c]], as well as Western companies’ attempts to reach critical mass in Japan – such as Roche’s acquisition of a majority stake in Chugai – the analysts expect the consolidation of the Japanese pharmaceutical sector will continue.