THE BIG GUNS: BRANDISHING OR RE-POLISHING?
While the global pharmaceutical market has been trundling along with around a 2 to 4 percent annual growth, China and Indonesia
are leading Asian growth with approximately 15 percent annual growth, explains Rhenu Bhuller Frost & Sullivan's Vice President
of Healthcare for Asia Pacific. As the pharma world continues to crane its neck towards the east, Asia is seen as a cornerstone
for boosting sales. According to the Economist Intelligence Unit, regional pharma sales have more than doubled from USD 97
billion in 2001 to over 214 billion in 2010 and are expected to reach 386 billion by the year 2016.
"Southeast Asia is one of the fastest growing regions in the world for us and our expectation is that it will continue growing
in the coming years," says Augusto Muench, regional director, South East Asia and managing director of Singapore for Boehringer
Ingelheim (BI). Last year, 16 percent of the company's total growth was attributed to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations
Although Patrick Bergstedt, president of MSD, Asia Pacific believes that "the growth of the emerging markets has to counterbalance
the pressure in the US and in Europe," Asia is no longer the low-hanging fruit. Opportunities are riddled with challenges.
Fabio Landazabal, Senior VP & Area Director, Asia Pacific GSK
Besides a tougher healthcare environment that makes it costly to develop original compounds, Bergstedt says that Asia's cost
of entry is much higher due to generic competition. "Also problematic are the hurdles for doing clinical studies, getting
drugs approved, and dramatically escalating reimbursements pressures."
The situation is complicated and growth is stifled by the conundrum of funding.
"Governments want to properly expand healthcare access worldwide, therefore require proper funding for it. On the other hand,
research based pharmaceutical companies, such as ours, with innovative molecules want to continue their research, which also
requires funding." In the middle of both, explains Muench, "there are physicians that need to be able to provide those innovative
products to patients that are in need."
Patrick Bergstedt, President Asia Pacific MSD
And if growth is ultimately guaranteed, sustainability is not.
"I doubt that the current business model we operate in could withstand and be sustainable given these challenges," concludes
Fabio Landazabal, senior vice president and area director, Asia Pacific for GSK agrees: "The pharmaceutical model is at a
stage where it might benefit from strategic collaborations with diverse industries such as IT and banking."
Christina Teo, Country Manager, Pfizer Singapore
The industry is shifting towards the two-brains-are-better-than-one route. Collaborations and partnerships are seen, if not
as a cure-all, then undoubtedly as mandatory to cope with the complexities.
"In this perspective, we have to forge partnerships to see how we can help play a role. The price of medicine is just one
component; we have to look at the cost of healthcare, which includes the price of medicines, infrastructure, supply logistics,
training of healthcare personnel, etc.," says Bergstedt, who is hoping to bring MSD up to third place in Asia Pacific, from
its current rank of fifth.