Strong sales of the diabetes treatment Actos has helped Takeda Pharmaceutical Co, Japan's largest drugmaker, post a 7.3% increase in sales for the nine months ended December 31 to over 1 trillion yen ($8.29 billion), though net income slipped 5.3% to 266.2 billion yen as the result of a hefty tax bill.

Sales of Actos (pioglitazone) brought in 253.6 billion yen, a rise of 43.2% over the like, year-earlier period, with US sales of the drug making up almost 209 billion yen (+42.9%) of that figure. 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 5.7% increase in sales to 157.1 billion yen, though gastrointestinal drug Takepron (lansoprazole) was down 8% to 117.3 billion yen, as a result of patent expiries in Europe. Turnover from the prostate cancer treatment Leuplin (leuprorelin) sneaked up 1.1% to 96.5 billion yen.

New products Rozerem (ramelteon) for sleeping disorders, which was launched in the USA in September 2005, and Amitiza (lubiprostone) for constipation which debuted last April, contributed $62 million and $31 million, respectively, to US turnover. Takeda left unchanged its net income forecast of 310 billion yen for the year ending March 2007, from a record 313.2 billion yen a year earlier, while full-year sales are expected to be in the region of 1.3 trillion yen.

Overseas, Takeda is doing fine and Actos sales are unlikely to fall off dramatically before US parent expiry in 2011. However the company, like the vast majority of Japan’s drugmakers, is faring less well at home where government price reductions are preventing growth. As a result, like the rest of the country’s major pharmaceutical players, Takeda is looking to expand abroad and is believed to have an acquisitions warchest containing$10 billion and some observers believe that a purchase in Europe, where the firm is fairly weak, could be on the cards.