Japan-US Business Report LogoJapan-U.S. Business Report

No. 344, May 1998

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Japanese Companies in the US


Thirteen years after acquiring an American manufacturer of injectable generic drugs used in hospitals, the primary U.S. subsidiary of FUJISAWA PHARMACEUTICAL CO., LTD. sold the never profitable business to AMERICAN PHARMACEUTICAL PARTNERS, INC. of Santa Monica, California for an undisclosed price. With the divestiture, which caused the first-ever loss by the big Japanese drug maker since it became a publicly traded company, Fujisawa Pharmaceutical will focus its U.S. operations on its core proprietary pharmaceutical products through a new corporate entity, FUJISAWA HEALTHCARE, INC., also headquartered in Deerfield, Illinois. These drugs include the immunosuppressant Prograf, the cardiovascular products Adenoscan and Adenocard and the antifungal agent AmBisome. U.S. sales of Fujisawa Pharmaceutical's proprietary products totaled about $230 million in 1997. Fujisawa Healthcare has approximately 350 employees, some of whom are located at the company's Grand Island, New York plant (see Japan-U.S. Business Report No. 341, February 1998, p. 2). The majority of the 550 people involved in the generic drug business were retained by American Pharmaceutical Partners.

Like several other second-tier pharmaceutical companies, ONO PHARMACEUTICAL CO., LTD. has established a wholly owned U.S. subsidiary to oversee clinical trials of promising drug candidates by contract research organizations. One such product is a treatment for cerebral infarction (ONO-2506). The New Jersey unit expects Phase I clinical studies to start next spring.

In a new transpacific alliance, YAMANOUCHI PHARMACEUTICAL CO., LTD. has awarded WARNER-LAMBERT CO. the right to market a balanced vasopressin receptor antagonist in the Americas as well as in Europe and Africa. The number-three Japanese drug company is developing YM087 primarily for the treatment of congestive heart failure. In return, it received Japanese sales rights to Warner-Lambert's Atorvastatin, a cholesterol-reduction agent. .....Meanwhile, YAMANOUCHI PHARMACEUTICAL CO., LTD. signed a drug discovery deal with STRUCTURAL BIOINFORMATICS, INC. Using its computational molecular modeling and virtual screening technologies, the San Diego, California firm will identify drug development candidates. The goal of the collaboration was not disclosed. SBI's computational screening technique is claimed to greatly speed the discovery process while costing a fraction of high-throughput screening with thousands of actual chemicals.

FUSO PHARMACEUTICAL INDUSTRIES, LTD. and GENVEC, INC. will cooperatively research, develop and commercialize gene therapies for the treatment of cancer in humans. The Osaka company will cover half of the research and development costs for up to five years. It also bought equity in the Rockville, Maryland biotechnology company. In exchange, Fuso Pharmaceutical Industries gains commercialization rights in Japan for any products developed through the alliance. GenVec retains the right to develop and commercialize the products elsewhere.

Having identified some promising leads toward the discovery of new treatments for inflammatory and autoimmune diseases, KYOWA HAKKO KOGYO CO., LTD. and Cambridge, Massachusetts-based LEUKOSITE, INC. have extended their collaboration. The partners are developing small molecule antagonists that selectively block a pair of chemokine receptors on leukocytes or white blood cells (see Japan-U.S. Business Report No. 339, December 1997, p. 2).

The Food and Drug Administration approved a proton pump inhibitor from TAP HOLDINGS INC. for the short-term treatment of heartburn and other symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease. Precavid (lansoprazole) blocks the production of stomach acid by inhibiting the enzyme system responsible for acid secretion. The FDA initially cleared it in 1995 for the treatment of erosive esophagitis and duodenal ulcers. Deerfield, Illinois- based TAP Holdings is equally owned by TAKEDA CHEMICAL INDUSTRIES, LTD. and ABBOTT LABORATORIES.

The first offshore holding company formed by ROHTO PHARMACEUTICAL CO., LTD. is located in Orchard Park, New York, where the Osaka firm's wholly owned MENTHOLATUM CO., INC. is headquartered. Acquired in 1988, Mentholatum manufactures and markets deep-heat ointment, lip balm and similar preparations. MENTHOLATUM RESEARCH LABORATORIES, INC. in Horsham, Pennsylvania also comes under the holding company's umbrella.

Tax considerations influenced TORAY INDUSTRIES, INC. to set up a Delaware-based holding company for the seven U.S. subsidiaries in which it has at least an 80 percent interest. These companies include TORAY PLASTICS (AMERICA), INC., a North Kingston, Rhode Island manufacturer of polypropylene and polyester film, and TORAY COMPOSITES OF AMERICA INC. of Tacoma, Washington, which makes carbon-fiber composites.

Divergent business interests between longtime partners MITSUBISHI CHEMICAL CORP. and HOECHST AG have led to an agreement for Japan's top chemical company to buy out the German firm's shares in three polyester film production and marketing joint ventures, including HOECHST DIAFOIL CO. of Greer, South Carolina. Hoechst owns two-thirds of that operation as well as of a company in Wiesbaden, Germany, plus one-third of a Japanese business. The three units have combined annual sales of $600 million and employ roughly 2,000 workers. Together, they produce 15 percent of the world supply of polyester film. The buyout, expected to be finalized in July, reportedly will cost Mitsubishi Chemical $151.5 million. It sees polyester film as a growth business and hopes some day to challenge market leaders E.I. DUPONT DE NEMOURS & CO., INC. and TORAY INDUSTRIES, INC. Hoechst increasingly is focusing on pharmaceuticals and other opportunities in the life sciences field.

An exchange rate of ¥132=$1.00 was used in this report.

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