A bright future ahead
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."
Roche to Double Sales in Three Years
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
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.