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ASKA Pharmaceutical looking to be the number one total healthcare company

Article - October 9, 2023

With drugs for internal medicine, obstetrics and gynecology, and urology, ASKA is making sure that all of its patients’ health needs are met.

We create new value as a leading women's healthcare company.

Sohta Yamaguchi, President, ASKA Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd.

First established in 1920, ASKA Pharmaceutical has grown to become the leading company in female healthcare in Japan, and currently occupies the number one sales position domestically in the fields of obstetrics and gynecology.

That status owes much to the group’s ability to adapt, and as recently as 2021 the firm changed its management style to a holdings structure, enabling it to provide a holistic service from prevention, examination and diagnosis to treatment and post-treatment.

“ASKA Pharmaceutical Holdings Co., Ltd. has several group companies,” explains Sohta Yamaguchi, President of ASKA Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd., “and one of them focuses on pharmaceutical drugs, while another focuses on testing and equipment for early diagnosis and prevention. With this comprehensive approach, we can increase our business opportunities.”

One of the group’s core businesses is the production of oral contraceptives (OCs), which, in contrast to condoms, allow women to assert their preference for non-pregnancy.

But as well as producing OCs, ASKA Pharmaceutical is also actively working on developing drugs to minimize their side effects.

Mr. Yamaguchi again: “We are currently in phase three of developing LF111, which utilizes only progesterone, thus eliminating the side effects associated with estrogen.”

Treatment of dysmenorrhea is another core focus. To this end, ASKA has recently launched its DroEthi combination tablets, which, according to Mr. Yamaguchi, provide a “generic alternative to a well-established product already on the market.”

While initial feedback has been good, it is only one in a range of products the company offers in this particular field. “One of our strengths,” Mr. Yamaguchi explains, “is that we provide a number of products for dysmenorrhea treatment, a field in which we hold around a 50% market share.”

And indeed, having long conducted R&D both in-house and with other companies, ASKA is now actively seeking new collaborations overseas, particularly in the fields of internal medicine, obstetrics and gynecology, and urology.

A two-pronged strategy will see the company introduce unique drugs developed by overseas companies to the Japanese market as well as offering licensing partnerships to overseas companies for drugs it has developed itself.

A Relugolix combination tablet called AKP-022, for instance, is set to go to clinical trials in July 2023. Focusing on uterine fibroids in females, the product is being positioned as the successor to RELUMINA, and is expected to enable longer durations of administration, and therefore improve patient convenience.

In 2021, meanwhile, the company invested in a partnership with Ha Tay Pharmaceutical Joint Stock Company in Vietnam, hoping to take advantage of the country’s growing economy and medical market. Through this partnership, ASKA is aiming to establish a strong presence in Vietnam and expand into other Asian countries from there.

Looking to the future, ASKA has set itself a number of goals to achieve in the mid-term. “We want to remain the leader in the field of obstetrics and gynecology, both in name and in reality,” says the ASKA Pharmaceutical president.

"We contribute to the stable supply of essential drugs and the elimination of unmet needs. For example, in the thyroid disease area, where we already have a market share of more than 90%, we are working on various initiatives. As well as ensuring that thyroid patients have access to a reliable pharmaceutical supply, we are aiming to develop drugs that minimize the side effects of existing drugs, or drugs that treat thyroid disease with a different approach,” Mr. Yamaguchi explains. “Through this we will respond to medical needs that have previously not been met.”

Through its provision of drugs and treatments as well as medical equipment and related services, the ultimate aim, Mr. Yamaguchi states, is “to become a total healthcare company and a global company, offering comprehensive health services for females.”