UPDATE 1-Astellas, Eisai to double sales forces in China -Nikkei

June 16 (Reuters) - Japan's No.2 drugmaker Astellas Pharma 4503.T and No.4 drugmaker Eisai Co 4523.T are planning to double their marketing personnel in China to boost sales, the Nikkei business daily reported.

The two firms, which were among the first Japanese players to enter the Chinese pharmaceutical market, seek to offset the impact of expiring U.S. patents on core drugs by boosting sales in China, the daily said.

The report said demand for drugs is expected to rise in China as the Chinese government tries to expand health care insurance coverage.

Astellas will raise the number of medical representatives in China to more than 600 by fiscal 2014 from 300 at present, while Eisai plans to increase its marketing personnel to 1,000 by fiscal 2011 and to 1,400 in fiscal 2013, from 730, the paper said.

Some of the drugs of these firms are covered under the country’s public medical insurance, the Nikkei said.

Astellas aims to double its sales in China over the next five years, while Eisai eyes strengthening its Chinese sales twice as much from the fiscal 2010 level to more than 40 billion yen in fiscal 2012, the daily said. (Reporting by Koustav Samanta in Bangalore; Editing by Prem Udayabhanu)