Drug Research in Asia Goes Native

October 31, 2012

Applied Clinical Trials

NEW YORK (GBI Research), 31 October 2012 - High recruitment rates and a robust regulatory framework strongly favour the Asian clinical research industry - and now pharma giants are going beyond simple outsourcing to study the region’s own health problems, states a new report by healthcare experts GBI Research.

The new report* explains that Asia offers a favourable environment for pharmaceutical progress, thanks to low costs, a large potential trial population and regulatory support. For example, oncology studies have now started to investigate the Asian phenotype, in order to learn even more about the nature of cancer.

During this year, over 12% of global clinical trials were carried out in the seven major markets of Asia, trailing behind the US share of 48.5%, and Europe’s 26.5%. Many Western biopharmaceutical companies are beginning to take advantage of emerging countries, where Asian regulatory agencies are streamlining the clinical trial process to meet global demand for cheap clinical research, but the vast opportunity in Asia has not yet been fully leveraged by the developed markets.

The cost of conducting clinical trials in Asian countries is 35%–45% lower than the cost of conducting similar trials in the US, as they are able to recruit a large number of patients from urban centres easily and at a low cost. The regulatory systems in Asia also offer a favourable environment, as the adoption of Good Clinical Practice (GCP) guidelines and the establishment of Institutional Review Boards (IRBs) is helping the region to quickly evolve and integrate with international standards.

Oncology is a key therapeutic area where the study of Asian patients can help pharma companies. The regional population has a high prevalence of liver cancer (due to infections of hepatitis B and C), stomach cancer, and head and neck cancer, so companies are focusing on discovering and developing medicines specifically to treat Asian diseases. This has developed from an earlier trend of finding use of an approved drug developed for a non-Asian phenotype. The Asia Oncology Strategic Alliance, launched by AstraZeneca in 2007, highlights the interest pharmaceutical companies have in the discovery and development of medicines specifically to treat Asian diseases. The aim of the alliance was to evaluate novel treatments for stomach and liver cancers in China, Japan, South Korea and Singapore, as the governments of these countries prioritized cancer therapy.

GBI Research estimates that the total market size of China, India, Russia, Japan, Singapore, Taiwan and South Korea’s drug discovery and development markets reached an impressive $5.3 billion in 2011, following growth at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 21.9% from 2007. The market is expected to reach $17.3 billion in 2018, at a CAGR of 18.4%.