London: The focus of the drug industry is shifting rapidly to Asia, which is poised to become the world’s largest market for medicines and a powerhouse for both production and research, according to a new survey published on Monday.
PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) said 58% of 185 pharmaceutical executives from domestic and multinational companies (MNCs) across the region believed the industry’s centre of gravity would be in Asia rather than North America and Europe in the near future. “MNCs are increasingly interested in setting up more research and development facilities and conducting more clinical trials in certain Asia territories,” PwC’s Asia Pacific advisory leader Matthew Wyborn said.
“At the same time, region-based pharmaceutical companies are seeking to expand their geographical footprint and become pan-regional or global players.”
A total of 65% of Asia-based firms said increased global market share was important for their business and a third of all MNCs have plans to further expand within the region through acquisitions or by developing new sites within the next year. China and India top the list of target countries for expansion, with Singapore and South Korea next.
Both international and domestic companies said there had been a welcome improvement in patent protection in key Asian markets, which was critical to successful development of the pharmaceuticals sector.
Around three quarters of executives polled said they had seen an improvement in intellectual property rights protection in the past five years, primarily as a result of the introduction of new laws and a stronger government emphasis on patent rights.
With the prices of new medicines a growing headache for governments and insurers in North America and Europe, Asia can play a pivotal role in building a lower-cost supply chain, executives believe.
So far much of the focus has been on outsourcing drug manufacturing, but companies are increasingly turning their attention to conducting research in the region as well.