#PhRMA12: Views Emerge on Emerging Markets

#PhRMA12: Views Emerge on Emerging Markets

04.13.12 | By Kate Connors

One thing was made clear in this morning's panel on emerging markets: each market is different. So while the speakers, and moderator Katty Kay from the BBC, talked about the opportunities and challenges that emerging markets present, they emphasized that there is a bit of danger in discussing them generally.

For example, said Samir Khalil from Merck, even within the Asia Pacific region, countries "differ in the government commitments to healthcare." That's why, he said we need individual company strategies rather than "emerging markets" strategies.

"To call Russia emergent the way you'd call Nigeria emergent is really quite difficult," said University of London professor David Taylor.

Of course, as Khalil said, one thing they have in common is the challenge in getting medicines to patients: "The case for why we do business in emerging markets is very clear. However, the how is what will make the difference. The difference is how we expand access to affordable healthcare to the people who need it."

One major key, said Taylor, is intellectual property protections, which are as important abroad as they are in America. He called IP what "a research-based industry needs before its medicines become virtually free to humankind forever" - perhaps a dramatic way to describe a medicine becoming available as a generic, but still a stark reminder of the brief lifecycle of innovative new medicines.

And there are other hurdles to overcome on the ground, Khalil said: "One of the biggest challenges we have in emerging markets is the inadequacy of the healthcare infrastructure." And of course, we still need to look at both "a creative way of bringing innovations at a lower cost and keep investing in innovation that is relevant."

Taylor reminded us that as much as we want to bring existing medicines to patients around the world who need them, we must not forget that at the end of the day, our job is the development of new medicines: "We need to get into the fundamental causes of diseases like diabetes and stop them."

BIND Biosciences CEO Scott Minick also emphasized that emerging markets not only must be viewed as separate entities, based on their individual, unique situations, they also must be viewed as fluid: "As economies mature from true emerging markets to markets that have emerged, one of the things that changes is a demand for better healthcare."

Emerging markets aren't just opportunities for new patients, they are also potential new sites of research. As Minick said, "the biology is basically the same. And what we do well as an industry is that probably every company in this room has an operation in each major emerging market, with local talent."

He added: "Though we like to think that the greatest minds are in the U.S., some of the best scientists are also in Russia, in China, in Japan."

Taylor concluded with an optimistic note: "We can be agents for world health improvement."

Follow Kate on Twitter @KateAtPhRMA.

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