While Taiwanese pharmaceutical and biotech players have traditionally set their sights on the US as a key market, rising medical needs in Asia are helping foster more regionally-focused strategies.
According to data from the World Bank, healthcare spending in Asia is expected to grow at a CAGR of 9.2 percent from 2015 through 2024, compared to 5.6 percent in the US. Some Taiwanese firms, such as TTY Biopharm, are cognizant of this and have begun to prioritize their immediate region above branching out to the US. “The rationale behind targeting East Asia first is that these emerging markets have mostly been ignored by big pharma,” explains the company’s chairman, Chuan Lin. “The way that business is done in these countries is different than that of more mature markets like the US. By entering these markets, TTY will become an industry leader in the penetration of emerging countries,” he continues.
Although healthcare needs across Asia are rising, access to advanced treatments is still limited. “Taking cancer treatment as an example, the market is still not very big for most of Asia, but there is high potential,” notes Michael Chang, chairman of OBI Pharma. According to the WHO, the regional burden of cancer in Asia is projected to increase in incidence by 41 percent from 2012 to 2025, and mortality is expected to jump by 44 percent for the same period. However, as Chang highlights, “in China, only five to ten percent of the population can afford most advanced western treatments, but the population is enormous. China’s market is coming up quickly, but the capacity to embrace innovation is not yet strong.”
Nevertheless, these local players have chosen an approach that shows a strong commitment to improving the health of their region. “Although in Asia, it is impossible to charge high prices for drugs – with a few exceptions – we are focused on helping patients and making innovation accessible,” affirms Chang. “Our aim is to sell our therapies to the populations who can afford them and use the revenues to support making innovative therapies accessible to patients who cannot,” he continues.
To reach this goal, establishing a business model which balances a commitment to Asia with global ambition is the name of the game. “In Asia, we want to be seen as a company with quality and affordable cancer drugs. Globally, our vision is to be recognized as a leader in innovative technology…as a health company, it is our duty to help both the people of Taiwan and patients worldwide as best we can,” concludes Lin.