Realising the Demand for Affordable Healthcare: Opportunities and Challenges

Pharma IQ

Asia looks to be at the forefront of growth within the pharmaceutical industry in the next few years, particularly the emerging markets of India and China.

Costs of drug development in the region are generally much lower than in Western countries, and Asia is increasingly becoming the location of choice for clinical trials.

This growth comes at a time when many companies within the pharmaceutical industry are preparing for the impact of the expiration of a number of major patents, opening up the market to a whole new range of generics.

Both these factors are expected to have a particular effect on the antibiotics market, a recent report by Global Industry Analysts suggested. It predicted that "Asia-Pacific, driven by India and China also represents the most promising market, slated to expand at the overall highest compounded growth rate through 2015."

Generics Expansion

Expansion within the Asian market is a priority for SOHM, a generics producer and manufacturer which expects record revenue growth for the third quarter of 2010.

Shailesh Shah, vice president for corporate strategy at SOHM, said that the period is the third consecutive quarter of record increases, having seen 1,000 percent revenue growth in the second quarter.

"Our strategy of focusing on the expansion of our market presence in India and select emerging pharmaceutical markets globally has been instrumental in achieving these results," she said.

The company has a significant manufacturing presence in India, which it claims is now the third largest global generics market in the world. SOHM named the benefits of manufacturing within India as having a "strong marketing set up", low prices and an English-speaking workforce.

Speaking as it announced it would be increasing its marketing presence in Uttar Pradesh, the largest state in India, SOHM said: "Branded generics represent the most significant growth opportunity in emerging markets for pharmaceutical sales."

However, the increased competition for generics is having a negative impact on at least one part of Asia's pharmaceutical industry.

Eli Lilly & Co, which is experiencing issues with both generics and patents, recently took the decision to close its Singapore Center for Drug Discovery as part of a global business review.

A spokesperson told Dow Jones Newswires:"[The] projects and capabilities deemed a priority for Lilly's global research organisation will be transitioned to the company's global headquarters."

The venture, due to close in December, was run in collaboration with the Singapore government's Economic Development Board.

Biosimilars in Asia

Biosimilar producers are also likely to be looking to target Asian markets, some industry experts predict. Heightened restrictions in the European Union (EU) and the United States with regard to such products mean that many are likely to turn to the east first.

Dr. Steve Lee, founder of Singapore-based A-Bio, is reported by Biotech East as saying this month: "It's going to be difficult to target highly-regulated markets.

"It's almost impossible to make an identical product [of the original biologic that EU and United States regulators essentially require]. It's better to focus on less regulated countries."

However, it was also observed that the profits from the sale of biosimilars in Asia are not likely to be as large as they would be from the US.

Dr. Hardy Chan, of API and biopharmaceutical manufacturer ScinoPharm Taiwan, was quoted by the news provider as saying: "Once people see that lives are being saved [in China, etc.] with such drugs, pressure will be on to allow them in the West."

Pfizer recently chose an Indian company to make a push into the biosimilar market. The company signed a $200 million deal to sell insulin produced by Biocon, which is a version of the insulin currently marketed under Novolin by Novo Nordisk and Humulin by Eli Lilly.