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Chinese market access environments are dynamic and fast changing, and a number of new access and affordability options are emerging. To maximize the potential of innovative therapies, it is important to have a holistic view of the full range of options and levers, prioritize and sequence the ones with the highest impacts, and develop an integrated strategy tailored to address China’s unmet needs.
Access and affordability have always represented major hurdles for innovative therapies in China. In stark contrast to the uptake curves for new launches in many markets, a typical China trajectory features much slower initial uptake – impeded by market access challenges like provincial tendering and hospital listing, as well as patient affordability gaps. As a result, the lifecycle curves for many innovative therapies tend to be constrained and compressed, and fall short in delivering the great promise and full potential oftentimes expected of them.
Building on Simon-Kucher’s extensive market access experience in China over the years, we have identified a number of actionable levers to overcome the challenges along two key dimensions: accelerating access, and improving affordability.
A number of recent developments have made it possible to accelerate market access in China, and, in some cases, early access to pockets of the Chinese market even before the formal regulatory approval by the National Medical Products Administration (NMPA), which in turn helps with the approval process.
Access options like these help innovative therapies get to Chinese patients early, and sometimes well ahead of NMPA approval. This window of early access is valuable, in garnering goodwill and KOL support, as well as Chinese data and real world evidence, which are key for the eventual approval.
Moreover, some of the programs will continue to play key roles upon formal approvals and commercial launches in China, and would go a long way to accessing the Chinese market, as well as reaching patients in need.
Innovative therapies typically come with big price tags, posing significant affordability challenges to many patients and their families in need. To bridge the affordability gap, the full range of funding pathways should be taken into account, aimed at developing multi-channel solutions for the patients in need.
In summary, China’s access environments are dynamic and fast changing, and a number of innovative access and affordability options are emerging. It is noteworthy though, that each of the options feature distinct impact, control, attractiveness, and feasibility.
Furthermore, none would be a silver bullet on stand-alone basis. To make the best of these, it takes a patient-first mindset above all, as well as a systematic approach to prioritize the right ones, and an integrated strategy tailored to address the unmet needs of Chinese patients. As a result, pharma companies would be well-positioned to maximize the value, impact, and full potential of the innovative therapies they bring to China.
About the authors
Bruce Liu leads Simon-Kucher’s Life Sciences division in Greater China. Josh Lee is a project manager with years of experience in China pharmaceutical pricing and access strategies. Justin Liu is a senior consultant specialized in China pharma and healthcare industry. Duo Xu, Miranda Wang and Selene Peng are consultants with experience across diverse therapeutic areas, and recent experience on NRDL and innovative access options in China.