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China — irresistible market for pharma MNCs

By LIU ZHIHUA | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2023-12-11 09:06

Eyecare product and service provider Alcon unveils its next-generation refractive surgery system during the sixth China International Import Expo in Shanghai in November. It was first launched in China, with additional markets to follow. CHINA DAILY

Vast size, resilient supply chain, favorable policies, growth prospects prove big factors

For multinational corporations in the pharmaceutical industry, the humongous China market has been an indispensable part of their global plans for decades — and this factor is becoming even more important now than ever before, mainly due to the country's pursuit of high-quality development, experts and business leaders said.

That pursuit has showcased five factors working in China's favor: the ever-growing market size, strong industrial and supply chain resilience, well-thought-out policy support, deepening healthcare industry reform and high-standard opening-up.

These five factors figured constantly in discussions among top executives of pharmaceutical and medical device companies at the sixth China International Import Expo in Shanghai in early November.

Many such companies chose the CIIE to launch or showcase their newest medicines, products and first-in-class therapies. Others sought to increase their visibility at the event, with some confirming their participation in future editions of the CIIE. Clearly, China is an all-important market for these MNCs.

For instance, US-based biopharmaceutical company Gilead Sciences increased its exhibition area at the expo by five-fold this year, just one year after its CIIE debut in 2022.Gilead said it wanted to fully demonstrate innovative products in virology, oncology and other disease areas, as well as the innovative technologies behind many of its star products.

US-based life sciences company Cytiva either debuted or showcased a series of products and solutions. Among them was a solution system purpose-built for the clinical and commercial manufacturing of lipid nanoparticle medicines.

Switzerland-based Alcon, a global eyecare product and service provider, unveiled a slew of new surgical, vision care and dry eye syndrome intervention innovations at the CIIE, which included "wavelight plus", a next-generation refractive surgery system launched first in China with additional markets to follow.

"China represents a significant need when it comes to eye health, and a very important market for Alcon," said Rick Kozloski, president of Alcon China.

"Since entering the Chinese market in 1995, we have steadily increased our investment to make innovative eyecare products, treatments and services more accessible to Chinese people."

Flora Zhu, director of China corporate research at Fitch Ratings, said: "China is the world's second-largest pharmaceutical market and the demand for high-quality drugs, where the global pharmaceutical companies have a competitive edge, is strong and will continue to grow, driven by China's aging population, increasing disposable incomes, growing health awareness and rising medical insurance coverage.

"We believe global biopharma companies are likely to benefit from more government support as China is spurring foreign investment in biopharmaceuticals."

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