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Big pharma seizing new opportunities in China therapeutics market

As China becomes the most important market for multinational pharmaceutical companies and the government’s Healthy China 2030 policy shifts into high gear, the corporate rush is on to file more applications for use of new treatments.

The health-care system blueprint, approved by the State Council, China’s Cabinet, in 2019, lays out 15 primary goals in areas such as decreasing the health effects of second-hand smoking, reducing obesity, increasing public physical fitness, promoting healthy diets, preventing chronic diseases, and addressing the needs of an aging population. It also expedites the approval process for pharma innovations.

Entry in the China market has been slow in coming for many multinational pharma firms, largely because of factors such as slow regulatory approval, concerns about the protection of intellectual property, and difficulties in accessing domestic distribution systems.

As the market for foreign pharmaceuticals opened wider, China’s focus was shifting from manufacturing generic drugs to broader research and development. One of Shanghai’s ambitions going forward is to become a global biotechnology hub.

Some analysts estimate that China will become the world’s largest pharma market in 10 years.

Multinational pharma profits show that betting on the China market is no foolhardy strategy.

Siemens Healthineers, which is involved in diagnostics and medical equipment, reported China sales in the last quarter of 2020 jumped 25 percent from a year earlier to 1.9 billion euros (US$2.3 billion), about twice the German firm’s global revenue increase.

Elisabeth Staudinger, president of Siemens Healthineers Asia-Pacific, said the comprehensive, multi-tier health-care system laid out in the government's 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-25) signals huge growth potential in China.

Healthy China also proposes a comprehensive reform of county-level hospitals and medical clinics to make quality health care more assessable to all residents.

Healthineers’ latest investments in China include a 3-billion-yuan manufacturing site in Shanghai for making in vitro diagnostics facilities and reagents for blood testing which started construction in 2018, and an open innovation center in the Zhangjiang Science City in the Pudong New Area.


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