Otsuka, the company behind drugs such as schizophrenia treatment Abilify, has hired WS on a newly created one-year contract after a pitch understood to have been against Hill & Knowlton, Cohn & Wolfe and Edelman.
WS European healthcare practice director Roy Stairmond leads an agency team on an account that includes public affairs work.
WS corporate and public affairs UK MD Jon McLeod said in a statement: ‘This is a challenging time for the pharma industry, with increasing scrutiny and scepticism among key audiences.’
The agency, which is also handling internal comms for Otsuka, reports to London-based head of European comms Alison Ross.
Otsuka Pharmaceutical Europe markets drugs, nutraceuticals and other healthcare products made by its Japan-based parent.
The firm has 23,000 employees worldwide and global sales of around £2.3bn annually, although just a small portion of this currently comes from Europe, where it only formally established operations seven years ago and has around 200 staff.
Otsuka launched Abilify in partnership with Bristol-Myers Squibb across Europe last year. The treatment is promoted by Ogilvy PR Worldwide across Europe and Pope Woodhead & Associates in the UK.
Other agencies used by Otsuka in the UK are The Workhouse, which promotes Pletal, a treatment for pain in the legs while walking, and Sue Welham PR on auto-immune disease treatment Adacolumn.
Stairmond declined to comment on fees for the account but described the work as ‘extensive’.