By: M. Robert Blanchard

September 19, 2012  9:15am

In an obvious effort to diversify its business away from cigarettes, Japan Tobacco has been attempting to discover, patent and market new pharmaceuticals. The Japanese edition of the Wall Street Journal reported today that the FDA has just approved a combination drug for AIDS that includes a medication, elvitegravir, discovered by Japan Tobacco.  While the new drug combination could reach sales of $2 Billion annually, Japan Tobacco has so far seen nothing but disappointment in it drug development division. A substance aimed at increasing “good” cholesterol was licensed to Roche, only to discover after clinical trials involving thousands that the medication just didn’t work. Of the many drugs that the company has studied in humans, elvitegravir is the first to be allowed on the U. S. market. The new AIDS combination drug will be sold by the California company, Gilead Sciences, Inc.

The company’s pharmaceutical successes don’t yet mirror it success with cigarette sales. Their “Mild Seven” brand is a top seller in Japan and is marketed in Taiwan, Russia and Malaysia. JT is in fact the world’s third-largest tobacco company in the world. So far, they have not had to face paying damages to the victims of their product, such as is seen the multi-million dollar verdicts being rendered in the U.S. courts. Matt Schultz, a plaintiff’s attorney against tobacco companies in Florida recognizes a pattern, “The international tobacco companies, just like the companies in the U.S., have to diversify their product line. Selling addictive products that cause deadly diseases is no longer a sustainable long-term business model.”

In the meantime, short term profits from cigarette sales by JT will certainly dwarf the company’s share of the new AIDS drug’s profits. Showing a net profit in excess of $1 Billion in the first quarter of 2012, the company does not seem hurt by the recent EU investigation of its illicit sale of company’s asset to a firm then owned partly by the Makhloufs,  family members of Syrian leader Assad who help finance his cruel retaliations against the Syrian populace.

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M. Robert Blanchard is a former prosecuting attorney, trial lawyer and writer living in Gulf Breeze, FL.