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Pharma sets sail to China

Drug companies-including Indianapolis-based Eli Lilly and Co.-are looking to ramp up sales internationally as the
U.S. market contracts for the first time in 50 years.

Sales of pharmaceuticals will fall 1 percent to 2 percent in the United States this year, according to a revised forecast from Connecticut-based IMS Health, a widely watched pharmaceutical research firm.

Sales are also growing more slowly around the world as the global recession curtails consumers’ and governments’ ability to pay for medicines.

Big pharmaceutical firms are already looking outside the United States for growth. Both New York-based Pfizer Inc. and New Jersey-based Merck & Co. Inc. touted greater global presence as a reason behind their decisions to acquire New Jersey firms Wyeth and Schering-Plough Corp, respectively.

Also, Eli Lilly and Co. officials said in April they are ramping up their activities in China, Russia, Brazil and other foreign countries. Lilly said it would double its sales force in China this year and launch 15 products in the country over the next five years.

Lilly CEO John Lechleiter told the China Daily, “One of our strategic bets over the coming years is expansion in the emerging markets-which enables us to take advantage of the fastest-growing health care markets. There is no better example than China.”

IMS Health predicts that China, the sixth-largest pharmaceutical market now, will become the third-largest market by 2011.

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