Hot Topics for MNCs in China

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PharmaBoardroom recently analysed the contents of 10 interviews conducted with country managers at multinational pharma companies in China. We found some underlying themes present in the majority of the interviews, giving an exclusive glimpse into what is currently at the top of the minds of pharma country managers in China.

 

1. Innovation

Almost all the multinational pharma company managers we spoke to in China underlined their commitment to innovating and launching latest-generation products. New regulations being rolled out by the Chinese government are helping to build an ecosystem of innovation in which companies are able to get a higher number of products to market more quickly. 

Eli Lilly’s Julio Gay Ger explained how the government is actively encouraging innovation, “From the market perspective, the Chinese government has been very committed to improving healthcare access, quality and innovation…they have improved the innovation ecosystem by strengthening regulations surrounding intellectual property and data protection. This brings great opportunity for the industry.”

All these regulatory changes are allowing us to bring innovative medicines much faster to China

Ingrid Zhang, Novartis

Ingrid Zhang, president of Novartis China highlighted the company’s ability to accelerate innovative product launches thanks to regulatory reforms, “All these regulatory changes are allowing us to bring innovative medicines much faster to China. Novartis has been present in China for the last three decades, during which we launched about 62 medicines (including different indications). In the last two years alone, we have launched 15 – and over the next five years, we expect to launch another 32… In 2017, we managed to list all of our new products on the NRDL, which also shows the strength of our innovation and the great work the organization has done… Our global innovative pipeline expects to produce 11 products in the next three years so, in markets like the US and Europe, those innovations will continue to drive growth for the organization.” 

Sanofi China’s country chair Pius Hornstein affirmed that the innovation ecosystem is enhancing the company’s portfolio: “On the portfolio side, we plan to launch 20 new products in the next four or five years – three to four times as many as we have launched in the past decade! You can imagine that these new products across Specialty Care, diabetes, vaccines and other disease areas, will be transforming our portfolio from mature products dominant to innovation-driven.” 

 

2. Global

China is the world’s second-largest pharma market, with USD 137 billion in total spending in 2018. Multinational companies see China as one of their most strategic markets, and the impact that China has on the rest of the world necessitates that these companies choose leaders that deeply understand the local market.  

Boehringer Ingelheim China president Felix Gutsche underscored the overall significance of the China market, “For BI globally, by any measure, whether sales or growth, China represents a significant proportion of the Group’s total. In Human Pharma, China ranks third after the US and Japan while in Animal Health, we would typically occupy the second position. Everyone at BI understands the importance of the China market.”

Hong Chow, general manager at Roche China focused on global talent in the industry: “From a more global perspective, I also hope to see more Chinese talents within the global pharmaceutical industry, just as historically, many global pharma executives have been trained or worked in the US. I hope to see more Chinese voices or people with China experience participate in global decision-making.”

China can really change healthcare globally through many different factors – investment, AI, cloud computing, big data and government policies

Asgar Rangoonwala, Xian Janssen

Along the same lines, Ipsen’s Alan Chen emphasized the importance of the region and leaders who deeply understand it: “China has become more important to Ipsen in terms of new product launches. For an international company with headquarters in France, usually, the first markets to launch are, for example, European markets. Today, China is regularly taking a similarly competitive position as major EU countries… The executive team has also undertaken serious efforts to understand the Chinese market and also to encourage the rest of senior leadership to understand the Chinese market better and clarify any misconceptions about the Chinese market.

Furthermore, China’s global impact can be felt in a variety of sectors. Asgar Rangoonwala of Xian Janssen elaborated, “China can really change healthcare globally through many different factors – investment, AI, cloud computing, big data and government policies. An environment is being created where innovation will improve the quality of life.”

 

3. Patients

China’s population of over 1.4 billion, many of whom are ageing and over 30 percent of whom live in rural or difficult-to-reach areas, supposes a high level of unmet medical needs. According to Bloomberg, China already boasts the world’s biggest patient population for diabetes and has almost four million people diagnosed with cancer each year. (Source: Bloomberg Business Week) Bearing in mind these healthcare statistics, pharma companies are working to penetrate the Chinese market to bring innovative products to underserved patients. 

Abbvie general manager Tony Au underscored the sheer number of Hepatitis C patients in China: “In virology, we have ALUVIA®/KALETRA®, a very reliable HIV product, on the Chinese market as well as VIEKIRAX®+ EXVIERA® for Hepatitis C (HCV). This is an area of serious unmet medical need in China, where there is an estimated 10 million HCV patients alone – the largest patient population globally.” 

[HCV] is an area of serious unmet medical need in China, where there is an estimated 10 million HCV patients alone – the largest patient population globally

Tony Au, Abbvie

Rogier Janssens of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany commented on the company’s impact and its target to reach more patients, “What is very significant is that our Nantong manufacturing facility produces pharma products for the essential needs of millions of Chinese patients, not highly advanced, targeted therapies for a small handful. Our facility serves huge numbers in relatively basic, essential needs, particularly in terms of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) like thyroid disease, cardiovascular conditions and diabetes… We actually have a very important target to reach 40 million Chinese patients by 2025.”

Chiesi China general manager Davide Dalle Fusine noted challenges present in such a large market, “The Chinese market for medicines is big indeed, but it is still far from maturity. In other words, it is not yet reliably meeting all current patients’ needs… The current challenge is to improve the footprint for patients’ access to the (newly approved) high-quality medicines, which are now available in China.”

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