India’s Ranbaxy Laboratories has raised the stake it holds in Japanese company Nihon Pharmaceutical Industry in a move that signals its intention to become a major player in Japan’s still embryonic market for generic drugs.

Ranbaxy hiked its holding in Nihon Pharmaceutical - a joint venture with Japanese drugmaker Nippon Chemiphar – to 50% from 10%. Ranbaxy entered the Japanese market in the year 2002 through its strategic alliance with Nippon Chemiphar.

The new structure recognises the equal commitment of both partners and their intent to grow the generics business in Japan, in a collaborative manner," said Ranbaxy CEO Brian Tempest.

Ranbaxy and its partners launched their first co-developed product in July. Vogseal 0.2mg and 0.3mg tablets (voglibose), a generic treatment for diabetes has already emerged as a brand leader amidst stiff generic competition, claims the Indian firm.

Japan is the world’s second largest pharma market, worth about $65 billion dollars at present, but has a relatively underdeveloped generics market at approximately $4 billion - only 6% by value. In Europe, generics account for 50% of all prescriptions and this is forecast to reach 75% by 2007, according to market research from Urch Publishing.