Liver Disease Treatments to Help Drive Sanofi China Sales

Sanofi, France’s biggest drugmaker, sees revenue growth opportunities from treatments for liver disease in China, home to half the world’s deaths related to the organ, Chief Executive Officer Chris Viehbacher said.

The company recently received approval for its cancer drug Eloxatin to be used against liver cancer in China, Viehbacher said at a briefing in Beijing today. Sanofi is on course to open four factories in the Asian nation this year to make vaccines as well as consumer- and animal-health products, he said.

Treatments for rare diseases, vaccines, and health care for people and animals will help Sanofi record “double-digit” sales growth in China this year, Viehbacher said, without being more specific. Rising incomes and urbanization are bolstering demand for more treatments in China, where liver cancer causes the most deaths among cancers after the lung, according to statistics from the nation’s health ministry.

China is the first country where Eloxatin has been approved as a liver-cancer drug, Viehbacher said. “This is a huge opportunity to increase access to care for liver cancer because the only product available today is extremely expensive and not widely accessible,” he said, without giving estimates for prices or potential sales.

Hepatitis B, a liver infection that puts people at high risk of death from liver cirrhosis and cancer, is “endemic” in China and other parts of Asia, according to the World Health Organization.

Sanofi’s sales from China rose 27 percent to 1.25 billion euros ($1.6 billion) in 2012, accounting for 3.6 percent of total revenue, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

The four new China factories include a consumer-health plant and a pharmaceutical factory in Hangzhou, and production facilities for vaccines and animal health in Shenzhen and Nanchang, respectively, Helen Yan, the company’s Asia head of communications, said at the briefing.

Spending in China’s health-care industry will more than double to 10 trillion yuan ($1.6 trillion) by 2020, from 4 trillion yuan now, according to estimates given March 13 by Wang Hongguang, a researcher at the Ministry of Science & Technology.

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