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GSK betting on China's healthcare growth

Plans sales rep recruitment drive and may consider acquisitions

GlaxoSmithKine chief executive Andrew Witty has said the firm is planning a recruitment drive for sales reps in China and may also consider acquisitions as it tries to expand its presence in the country.

In an interview with Bloomberg, Witty said that GSK plans to hire several hundred more sales reps in China this year to help promote recently-approved products such as its cervical cancer vaccine Cervarix, rotavirus vaccine Rotarix, Avodart (dutasteride) for benign prostatic hyperplasia and antihypertensive Volibris (ambrisentan).

The company had already boosted its salesforce in China by around 700 last year to reach a total of around 4,000 reps, emboldened by recent government initiatives which are expanding access to medicines and improving drug safety, in addition to setting price controls.

Also prompting GSK's decision to expand in China is the country's willingness to invest in research, said Witty, and the company recently added 450 researchers to its Shanghai-based Chinese research workforce to tap into that trend, and earlier this year said it would set up a dedicated team to explore the potential pharmaceutical leads that could be gleaned from traditional Chinese medicines.

China makes up 3 per cent of GSK's turnover at present but is growing rapidly, and Witty told Bloomberg the firm may choose to accelerate its presence there with one or more targeted acquisitions.
That ties in with earlier statements by Witty that GSK wants to undertake a series of smaller acquisitions in China, India and other fast-growing healthcare markets.

GSK bought domestic pharma company Nanjing MeiRui Pharma for $70m at the end of 2010 and followed this up by buying out its partner in Chinese flu vaccines joint venture Shenzhen Neptunus Interlong Bio-Technique for $39m last June.

13th March 2012

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