The rise of Asia in the global pharmaceutical industry

Continent has lost its “emerging” status on the global biopharma scene.

China, India and other key markets in Asia have long been labeled pharmerging, implying strong growth in underdeveloped markets from small bases. But this is no longer the case. Over the past decade, Asia has grown exponentially and now sits at the very epicenter of the global pharmaceutical industry, driving growth, innovation and future development.

In terms of market size and scale, China and Japan are now the second and third largest pharmaceutical markets in the world, respectively. China, in particular, has experienced strong and consistent double-digit annual growth over the past decade, supported by continued infrastructure development, rising healthcare spending and coverage, and an encouraging regulatory environment. . India, Indonesia, Vietnam and Thailand also show great potential, all with large populations and strong engines.

Many multinational pharmaceutical manufacturers are witnessing this firsthand, as Asia contributes a growing share of their global revenues and, more importantly, the bulk of their growth. For them, Asia typically accounted for 20% to 30% of their 2021 revenue, with around half coming from China.

Integration into the global ecosystem

Asia’s importance goes beyond being a growth market, as it has become an integral part of the global pharmaceutical ecosystem. Markets such as Japan, Australia and Singapore have long been seen as more in tune with the global industry, and others are moving in that direction. Since China’s accession to the International Council for Harmonization of Technical Requirements for Pharmaceuticals for Human Use (ICH) in 2017, more than 220 breakthrough therapies have been approved, the time between China’s approval and the first worldwide approval being drastically shortened. This is despite new options across the Hainan and Greater Bay Areas that provide faster and faster access, as well as real-world evidence studies, which, in turn, will speed up potential new product approvals in China. In the first quarter of 2022, 18 new drugs received marketing authorization in China, including 12 from overseas, including Paxlovid and abrocitinib from Pfizer, upadacitinib from AbbVie and brigatinib from Takeda.

Asia is also becoming an important source of R&D innovation. While the United States still accounts for about half of new pipeline assets, Asia is closing ranks. According to Pharmaprojects, China comes second behind the United States with 14%, followed by Japan and Korea with about 5% each. During the last Nature examines drug discovery research, China had more than 2,000 experimental agents as of July 2021, of which 418 were first-in-class and 216 fall into the next-generation category; the latter includes cell and gene therapies, nucleic acid-based therapies and proteolysis approaches targeting chimeras (PROTAC). New Asian-made therapies such as Brukinsa and Carvykti have reached the global stage, and many more are in advanced stages, primarily through partnership and licensing agreements with major pharmaceutical companies. As Asia has a distinct and sometimes unique disease epidemiology compared to Western markets and a large population base – which could be an advantage for rare disease research – its eminence as an epicenter of innovation biopharmaceutical and clinical research will only grow in the future.

Stimulate innovation

Asian markets generally exhibit a distinct industrial dynamics and competitive landscape compared to those of the United States and the EU. In fact, the winning formula in the Asian pharma industry typically involves not only innovative portfolios and pipelines, but also creative market access approaches, effective stakeholder engagements, innovative business models, and go-to-market strategies. on the market.

Among these, the most notable are e-health services, which are becoming increasingly popular in Asia. Major platforms such as JDHealth have over 120 million active users for online consultations and pharmacies, as well as value-added services for patients, doctors, employers and pharmaceutical companies. In India, Practo offers online consultations accessible to rural populations, and in Indonesia, HaloDoc has gained momentum with patients and doctors.

Selene Peng and others from Simon-Kucher’s life sciences division in Shanghai contributed to this article.

Bruce Liupartner at Simon-Kucher & Partners, leading its life sciences division in Greater China

About Terry Gongora

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