Eli Lilly chief executive John Lechleiter has reiterated a call to governments to support innovation, while speaking of the potential of the Japanese market and the company's prospects once the blockbuster Cymbalta goes off-patent.

First up, in an address to the US/Japan Business Council in Tokyo, Dr Lechleiter noted that as of September 2010, the country had nearly 45,000 people aged over 100. According to a United Nations survey, by 2050 Japan is expected to have 272,000 centenarians (although some predict the number could be closer to 1 million) and 40% of the population will be 65 or older.

As a result, Japan's health system will come under major pressure,  with demand for medical care likely to triple in the next 25 years, according to consultants McKinsey & Co. Against this backdrop, Dr Lechleiter claimed that "wise investments in health care innovation will be among society's most productive investments in the years ahead, and that medicines represent the most cost-effective approach to preventing and treating disease".

He stressed the need for a research-based pharmaceutical industry that is "more networked, global and entrepreneurial", arguing that "a company's ability to pursue innovation...requires that governments maintain solid protection of intellectual property, a fair, rigorous and transparent system of regulation and a predictable tax structure".

Regarding Japan specifically, he praised the country's 'new growth strategy' for recognising the value of innovation  and proposing a reduction in the effective corporate tax rate. He also called for the country to extend the data-exclusivity period for biologics to 12 years and permanently adopt pricing reforms initiated in April 2010 that provide for price stability over the life of a patent or exclusivity period.

Dr Lechleiter concluded by saying he hopes the country's Pharmaceuticals and Medical Devices Agency to continue to accept multinational clinical-trial protocols and to make it easier for companies to include Japan in early investigational studies.

The Lilly boss then spoke to the Wall Street Journal and spoke about the firm's prospects in general. He said that after the patent expiry on the antidepressant/fibromyalgia blockbuster Cymbalta (duloxetine) in 2013, "we expect to be back on a growth trajectory" and once again ruled out any big acquisition.

Dr Lechleiter said that "we still see no need for large-scale mergers and acquisition activity. We don't believe large deals in the industry have been more productive than developing our research capability". He also noted that Japan is a market where Lilly expects significant growth for the rest of the decade at least.