A glance at neo-plastic phenomena in the Asia-Pacific macro-region displayed how such forms as pancreatic, ovarian, prostate and bladder cancers are on the rise. But analysts at Gbi Research show their pharmaceutical treatment market is not growing steadily enough, due to a series of reasons

Roberto Carminati

Recent figures from the London, Uk based multinational market insight company Gbi Research showed that the Asia-Pacific solid tumors treatment market is nowadays rising but that still, its growth rate is not enough to satisfy the real needs of such nations as Australia, China and India. In fact, senior analyst at Gbi Research Vijaya Vulapalli considered that the industry is moving at a «modest» pace also due to regulatory issues and local institutional pricing policies. Nonetheless, should we take a look at the figures that Gbi Research presented in its early autumn report, numbers might seem encouraging. The treatments’ value in the prostate, ovarian, bladder and pancreatic cancer seems in fact to be booming since forecasts predict it can climb to a 2.3 dollars record high in 2019 from the 1 billion dollars it totalized in 2012, with a Compound annual growth rate or Cagr of 12,3 percentage points. At the moment Australia seems to be the largest market for the solid tumors industry, since analysts at Gbi predict it will achieve a 13,9% Cagr growth rate in the next five years. On the other hand, India and China appear to be much slower with an expected Compound annual growth rate of 9,7% and 5,5% respectively, mainly due, as previously stated, to stricter pricing regulations and recent price cuts. This means that as we will later briefly see that both countries and China in particular are investing heavily in dedicated pharmaceutical treatments and specific research and development activities, but their central government is looking forward to adopt or has already adopted measures to increase the population’s chances to access vital therapies.

A modest growth over the 2013-2019 period

«The average cost of treatment for the four cancer types mentioned previously», Gbi Research pointed out in its report, «is also estimated to grow from 4,001 dollars in 2012 to 6,212.5 dollars by 2019, at a Compound annual growth rate of 6,5%. The cost of treatment in Australia will be even higher, increasing from 3,703 Us dollars in 2012 to 7,576 dollars in the next five years, at a growth rate of 10,8%, driven mainly by better access and speedier launches of new drugs in the country». We are also about to see how the idea of a faster launch of new products on the national market is controversial in the land Down under, due to problems with the enlisting of innovative drugs in the Australian Pharmaceutical benefits scheme for subsidies therapies. From his very point of view Vijaya Vulapalli, senior analyst at London based Gbi Research, has remarked: «The solid tumors treatment market is expected to show modest growth over the forecast period due to recent drug approvals and expected product launches for ovarian, pancreatic and prostate cancers. These new approvals», Vijava Vulapalli continued, «which have occurred in the last two years, have the potential to influence disease treatment patterns and may therefore have an effect on market size». While introducing their 2013 Cancer conference that took place in Beijing last November 17-19th organizers – China strategic alliance of medical device innovation; Target exhibition Beijing Co. and the International society of oncology and biomarkers – have pointed out that «China incidence rate of cancer rises as it becomes the first fatal disease». And that, thus, «cancer drugs represent a large potential on the therapeutic market». Besides that, the international meeting official website noted how «many companies (both in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology sectors) are focusing on developing advanced cancer drugs for targeted therapy». And also, it says a large number of domestic firms «have also increased their focus on research and development capabilities to develop effective cancer treatment for breast, prostate, colon, and pancreatic cancers. Over the next few years, the market is set to witness launch of advanced cancer drugs and entry of new players. Thus, intensifying competition in this industry in the development and marketing of cancer drugs».

Research and development booming in Beijing

Back to Gbi’s analysis, experts focused on the Chinese government’s initiatives, that the market research company dubbed as “ambitious” to reform the national healthcare system. Beijing’s goal is to increase access to healthcare facilities and the move is expected to boost the anti-cancer drugs market and industry over the next ten years at least. But if on the one hand the plan could reveal a “major driver” for the solid tumors treatment arena; on the other hand Gbi Research seems to believe that strategies for «pricing regulation in China and India could restrict potential growth».
«In recent years», Vijava Vulapalli stated, «several attempts were made by the pricing and regulatory bodies in both India and China to improve access and affordability of innovative drugs. In late 2012, Indian government approved regulations to cap prices of 348 drugs on the Essential Drugs List or Edl. Additionally, manufacturers are required to price their drugs below the ceiling price, which is fixed by taking an average cost of all drugs that have more than 1% market share». However, the whole Asia-Pacific or Apac macro-region has recently seen a variety of drugs being approved and launched on the market both in Australia and in Japan and the number includes such names as Afinitor, Avastin, Jevtana, Sutent and Zytiga. Thus, according to analysts at Gbi Research, their introduction «could trigger a shift in the treatment paradigm in the foreseen future». Controversy was nonetheless heating up last summer in Australia when, as The Observer reported at the end of July, cancer stakeholders were described as «challenging the government to make new medicines more readily available to patients». The debate sprung up from a report that Medicine Australia’ oncology industry task force (which includes 16 pharmaceutical companies in the country) commissioned to Deloitte Access Economics. In fact it found out that oncology drugs struggled to receive the already mentioned Pharmaceutical benefits scheme or Pbs. The Observer recalled: «Deloitte Access Economics’ report said Australia had the highest age-standardized incidence of cancer in the world but lags behind other countries in access to medicines. It also suggested», as editor Neil Bramwell noted in his July 31st article, «that there was a misalignment between the cancer burden of disease and healthcare expenditure, with cancer receiving 13% of total healthcare expenditure in 2003, when it was responsible for nearly 20% of Australia’s burden of disease. Australia», Neil Bramwell concluded, «was also found to be one of the five worst countries in terms of indication coverage for oncology medicines that achieve reimbursement». Focusing instead on India, Frost & Sullivan reported last spring that the oncology market is growing at a 20% rate annually and it is expected to keep the same pace over the next three or four years at least. Frost & Sullivan’s study also reported that «chemotherapy, biologics, targeted therapy, hormonal therapy, and supportive care are the different types of available cancer treatment in India»; and also that «among these, chemotherapy recorded the highest market value» so far. Whilst according to F&S cancers of oral cavity and lungs in males and breast in females account for 50% of all cancer-related deaths in the country, the Popular republic of China is at present struggling with colon, prostate and pancreatic solid tumors, as local sources reported in late 2013.