Big Pharma gains
Still, many pharmaceutical companies have yet to stamp their presence in Asia. Only the larger firms seem to have made real
gains. Earlier this year, Pfizer (New York) commented that it is expecting its China business to grow by at least 25%. It
has planned to forge more partnerships and expand its team of representatives, many of whom are trained doctors, from 2300
in 177 cities to 3200 in 252 cities by 2011. It is also teaming up with Japan's Takeda Pharmaceutical (Tokyo) to sell the
latter's blockbuster Actos diabetes drug in China. On the other hand, Novartis' (Basel) made a $1 billion research and development
investment in China and took an 85% stake in a privately held vaccine company in China.
"Currently, many foreign firms are still playing the catch-up game and exploring ways to enter the Asian market. Some are
considering the M&As option as a means to increase presence in Asia," says Jan Williem Eleveld, vice-president of consulting
and services for the Asia–Pacific at IMS Health.
In the long run, local and foreign companies are likely to benefit from global partnerships in the Asian region. As Pieter
de Geus, vice-president of strategic business development at DSM Pharma Cluster (Heerlen, The Netherlands), explains, "Generally,
professional sales and marketing of MNCs [multinational corporations] will elevate the overall market practices for local
companies. The [intellectual property] protection environment will also improve [in Asia] as there will be a push for sophisticated
and efficient research and development requirements." He noted that the presence of global firms will also fuel the generic-drug
Eleveld adds, "There will be a positive development for patients and governments as foreign firms will support the availability
of innovative medicines to treat unmet medical needs in the region. This will also present an opportunity for local companies
to assist their foreign counterparts through joint marketing collaborations."
Interestingly, Asian companies are making their presence known in overseas markets although the industry has yet to see a
definite regional or global player. Some attempts to increase overseas presence include Simcere's (Nanjing, Jiangsu) in-licensing
of an oncology drug and clinical-trial program in the United States, and the China National Biotech Group's (Beijing) attempt
to become a worldwide vaccine manufacturing leader.
Mooney says, "Asian companies are expected to perform well in overseas markets. We can certainly expect them to gain dominance
over time and to come up with products that are innovative at lower price points that will cater to both US and European markets."
Jane Wan is a freelance writer based in Singapore.