The news that Eli Lilly plans to double its turnover in Japan over the next six years will add to the woes of the country’s domestic pharmaceutical industry, already facing strong competition from multinationals and hit by government-imposed pricing constraints.

Western multinationals see Japan – the world’s second-largest drug market after the USA – as a major growth opportunity, and as a defensive strategy the Japanese industry has started to consolidate to increase its competitiveness. Most recently, Daiichi and Sankyo agreed to merge [[02/03/05f]], and this follows marriage announcements from Yamanouchi and Fujisawa [[25/05/04b]] as well as Dainippon and Sumitomo [[26/11/04c]].

A Reuters report said that Eli Lilly plans to achieve its goal by increasing promotion of its existing product range, as well as launching new drugs. Most recently, Eli Lilly Japan announced on March 10 that it has launched its fact-acting insulin analogues, Humalog Mix50 and Humalog Mix25, and intermediate-acting insulin analogue Humalog N, and it has two other key products – Cialis (tadalafil) for impotence, and Alimta (pemetrexed) for cancer – in late-stage development.

Last year, sales at Eli Lilly Japan reached 68.2 billion yen, up nearly 14%, helped by demand for its schizophrenia drug Zyprexa (olanzapine) [[08/02/05g]] and the launch of Evista (raloxifene) for osteoporosis [[14/05/04f]], and Japan is Lilly's second-largest market behind the US.

A doubling in sales to over 120 billion yen by 2010 would also boost Lilly’s market share in Japan to 2% from 1%. The company also aims to double its shares again by 2015 to 250 billion yen to bring Japan into line with Lilly’s global market share of around 3%.