Thailand: Critical Need for New Investment - Pharmaceutical Executive


Thailand: Critical Need for New Investment

Pharmaceutical Executive

A bright future ahead

Roche to Double Sales in Three Years
But to Somgiat Mahapun, Janssen-Cilag's managing director for Thailand and Indonesia, these legal loopholes will gradually disappear: "Thailand has had product patents since 1992, so the threat of generics is fortunately decreasing. This is a good thing for multinational companies. The challenge remains for the local ones, since they have to raise the image of the local product in the eyes of doctors and patients. Furthermore, they have to develop alliances with the research companies for marketing new products as well."

Oncology is a priority field for Janssen-Cilag, a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson, along with hematology, pain, and central nervous system (CNS). "One of our main fields of development is currently anti-psychotic drugs. Marketing these types of drugs in a country like Thailand was a major challenge. The market was previously very small and I believe Janssen has expanded the market tremendously together with Eli Lilly and AstraZeneca by introducing all these atypical antipsychotic drugs," said Mahapun. "A major challenge would be to broaden this market in CNS since the business comes mainly from the governmental sector, where the money allocated to mental health problems is minimal."

In the coming year, Janssen-Cilag will also be looking into biotechnology with its flagship product, Eprex. "Our challenge now is to maintain our market share as we are faced with many biosimilars for this product. Actually, our company is the second-largest biopharmaceutical company worldwide. Unfortunately, we don't have access to those products for Thailand," said Mahapun. These constraints don't prevent him from considering a bright future, especially since Thailand is on the verge of becoming a clinical research hub.

Becoming a clinical trial hub

Janssen-Cilag already has a separate Global Clinical Research Organization (GCRO), which deals with early-stage trials and reports directly to regional headquarters. "As the country manager, I am trying to lobby with corporate so we can perform more early stage-clinical trials locally," explained Mahapun. "When we look at the market, we see that it is growing exponentially. We have good researchers who will help in conducting clinical research in the early stages. Also, Thai doctors are getting the opportunity to gain international exposure. Therefore, they are paving the way to acquire credibility for this kind of thing. This is a very good experience for the country in order to develop our own research."

Most MNCs predict a bright future for Thailand as a clinical research hub. In their view, it could be a win-win situation for the industry as well as the medical profession in Thailand. "What we are trying to do is maximize the number of clinical trials, so that we can leverage our presence in Thailand and do cutting-edge clinical research with interesting compounds, said Novartis' Jager. "This will also aid Thailand in becoming a medical healthcare hub. We can do some technology transfer, we can do a lot of training, and I think that many Thai doctors are very appreciative of these kinds of activities."

Novartis Thailand is the most dynamic and best-performing subsidiary within Novartis in the region, ranking the fifth-largest MNC in Thailand in overall operations. Today, the group has taken a step forward, complying with the parent company's highest standards to conduct clinical research.

The Biotechnology Fever

"We don't want to be perceived as a low-cost country as we are on our way to building a knowledge-based economy." According to Prof. Dr. Pornchai Matangkasombut, chairman of the Thailand Center of Excellence for Life Sciences (TCELS), smart collaborations and partnerships among government, universities, entrepreneurial companies, and investors, both within and across national boundaries, will contribute substantially to Thailand's ability to capture the value being created.


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