(Updates with details, background, adds Daiichi Sankyo)
TOKYO Jan 31 (Reuters) - Takeda Pharmaceutical Co Ltd (4502.T), Japan's biggest drug maker, booked a 24.5 percent rise in profit for the first nine months of the business year on Thursday as more diabetes patients turned to its Actos pill after a rival drug was hit by safety concerns.
Takeda said net profit climbed to 331.4 billion yen ($3.12 billion) for the April-December period, up from 266.2 billion yen in the same period a year earlier.
It left its projection of annual net income unchanged at 395 billion yen, below the average estimate of 409 billion yen from 19 brokerages.
Sales of Actos, the main earnings engine for Takeda, have risen while those of GlaxoSmithKline's (GSK.L) Avandia have tumbled since Avandia was linked to heart attack risk in a U.S. study last May.
Domestic rival Daiichi Sankyo Co Ltd (4568.T) also said net profit for the April-December period jumped, rising 24 percent to 96.4 billion yen, helped by strong sales of its high blood pressure medicine Benicar.
Takeda's U.S. patent for Actos will expire in 2011 and the company is under pressure to successfully bring new drugs to market to offset the loss of earnings.
Investors were spooked late last year when U.S. authorities recommended Takeda to halt high-dose trials of a key cholesterol-lowering drug candidate.
But they have had some reassurance with two recent filings for U.S. approval, one for a new type of diabetes treatment, alogliptin or SYR-322, which it hopes will compete with Merck & Co's (MRK.N) Januvia, and one for a successor to its heartburn and ulcer drug Prevacid.
Takeda's stock was up 0.9 percent at 6,450 yen after the announcement and Daiichi Sankyo's shares were 1.9 percent higher at 3,170 yen. (Reporting by Edwina Gibbs, Editing by Michael Watson) (firstname.lastname@example.org; +813 3432-8730; Reuters Messaging; email@example.com))