Healthcare system to get 400b yuan injection
Updated: 2012-09-04 02:13
By LIU JIE (China Daily)
Increase in cases of chronic diseases can mean opportunities for medical firms
Deng Jianping currently spends around 500 yuan ($79) a month on medicine for blood pressure, diabetes and coronary heart disease.
The 68-year-old Beijinger said his wife has more chronic diseases and her medication costs even more, while his two sons, 42 and 38, also need to take medicine every day for hypertension and heart illness.
Wang and his family are among the more than 260 million Chinese people, around a quarter of the nation’s population, who have been diagnosed with chronic diseases, including cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, cancer and chronic respiratory diseases.
The Ministry of Health said that around 10 million people in China have contracted chronic diseases every year since 2002.
"Prevention and control of chronic diseases will be one of the seven top tasks of China’s medical care reform by 2020," said Health Minister Chen Zhu.
The central government will invest a total of 400 billion yuan by 2020 in the seven key projects, which also involve improvements to the grassroots healthcare system, psychological disease prevention, the construction of a digital public health information network, medical device innovation, the development of traditional Chinese medicine, and the training of general practitioners.
According to the ministry, 85 percent of deaths in China are caused by chronic diseases, with expenditure on the treatment of these accounting for 69 percent of China’s total healthcare costs last year.
Foreign pharmaceutical companies have an advantage in this sector, according to Song Yingtong, a senior analyst at Beijing Chnmed Consulting Co Ltd, a domestic pharmaceutical consulting firm.
"They have accumulated rich experience in chronic disease treatment in developed markets," he said.
Developed economies witnessed a rise in chronic diseases in the late 1980s. China, along with fast economic growth, is now experiencing the growth of these "illnesses of affluence", which are mainly caused by a rich diet, less exercise and heavy physiological pressure, Song said.
China’s market for chronic disease medication is already highly competitive.
The diabetes sector is led by Denmark’s Novo Nordisk AS, US-based Eli Lilly and Co and Germany’s Bayer HealthCare. Meanwhile Switzerland’s Novartis AG and UK-based GlaxoSmithKline Plc are well placed in the treatment of cardiovascular diseases. In cancer therapy, Pfizer Inc from the United States and Merck Sharp & Dohme Corp — known in the US and Canada as Merck & Co — are taking the lead. And they are now stepping up their efforts to further explore the market in China.
US-based Bristol-Myers Squibb Co plans to launch at least five new products by 2020 in China, which are all targeted at chronic diseases.
Jean-Christophe Pointeau, president of BMS (China) Investment Co Ltd, said that his company has set its business focus in China on diabetes, hepatitis, cardiovascular and metabolic conditions, and cancer therapies.
Ranked as one of the world’s top 10 biophamarceutical companies, BMS launched a new diabetes medicine in China last November and plans to promote a new cardiovascular medication under joint development with Pfizer Inc this year. Two more new diabetes drugs are expected to come on to the market between 2013 and 2014, and there are plans to launch a range of cancer and anti-viral medicines between 2015 and 2016.
"We have a busy schedule before 2020," said Pointeau, who took up his current post in June 2011.
Previously, the US-based company had only launched one new drug in China over the past 10 years. China is BMS’ fifth-largest market, with sales rising by 10 to 15 percent annually over the past five years. Pointeau said the company will maintain this growth momentum in the years to come.
MSD, the world’s second-largest drug producer by sales, announced at the end of last year it will invest $1.5 billion in research and development in China within five years, with a large part of the funds devoted to the development of chronic disease medicines tailored to local people.
The company is building an Asia research and development headquarters in Beijing and is cooperating with local counterparts and academic institutions.
Michel Vounatsos, chairman and president of MSD China, said that the new R&D center, an integrated part of the company’s global research network, will speed up the introduction of the company’s newly developed medicines to China as well as cooperation with local partners that will help create products tailored to Chinese patients.