March 10, 2021, Beijing— We embrace the “14th Five-year-plan” in 2021, the key year to implement “Healthy China 2030” Guidelines. As specified in 2021 Report on the Work of the Government, healthy China will remain the top priority of the health sector. On the occasion of the Two Sessions, China Association of Enterprises with Foreign Investment R&D-based Pharmaceutical Association Committee (RDPAC) released the Report on Innovation in Pharmaceutical Industry for a Healthy China, which provides a detailed analysis on how innovative pharmaceutical industry improves people’s life quality and the average life span significantly, lowers the burden of diseases, boosts economic development, and assists in realizing a healthy China by adhering to “patient-centered” principle, and focusing on the “preventive treatment of diseases”, the “treatment of known diseases” and the “prevention of unknown diseases”, namely, adopting preventive measures, therapeutic measures and carrying out breakthrough technical studies.
It has also been pointed out in the report that, as China started the new round of reform of the medical and health sectors in 2009, we have made remarkable achievements in medical insurance, public health service, medical service, and drug supply guarantee, and given the close linkage, the strategic significance of innovative pharmaceutical industry for “healthy China” has been increasingly defined. However, compared with the European and American developed countries, we are still facing big challenges in making innovative drugs accessible to more patients. In that case, the key of realizing “healthy China” is to figure out how to further promote pharmaceutical medical and health system from working alone to close cooperation, adhere to the development concept of cooperation and innovation, and promote multi-party cooperation within the system, to make innovative drugs accessible to more patients.
Kang Wei, Managing Director of RDPAC expressed, “COVID-19 caused a huge impact on the global health and economic development in 2020, and also made the world focus on “health”, “innovation” and “cooperation”. However, in the great cause of building a healthy China, innovative pharmaceutical industry plays an indispensable role, and it’s hoped that we can cooperate closely with Chinese government, medical institutions and other relevant parties, and boost a healthy China by improving health based on prevention, treatment and breakthrough innovation and R&D.”
Three starting points of innovation in pharmaceutical industry for “a healthy China”: “preventive treatment of diseases”, “treatment of known diseases” and “prevention of unknown diseases”
As predicted in the report, up till 2040, China will lower up to 55% total disease burdens, and prolong the life span of the people by improving health based on the “preventive treatment of diseases”, the “treatment of known diseases” and the “prevention of unknown diseases”, which are closely related to innovative pharmaceutical industry, and should be mainly focused on adopting preventive measures to lower about 25% disease burdens by strengthening public health service system, adopting therapeutic measures to lower about 10% disease burdens by making innovative drugs more accessible, and speed up new therapeutic measures to lower about 20% disease burdens by promoting R&D breakthrough technologies.
The report is provided with detailed analysis on the unique value of innovative drugs in realizing the three key points:
“Preventive treatment of diseases”: Participate in refining public health service systems, promote known preventive measures, and strengthen people’s awareness of health prevention, including promoting health education by professional capacity and resources, boosting disease prevention by constantly introducing innovative vaccine products, creating technical standards, introducing early screening items, and optimizing disease management items.
“Treatment of known diseases”: Strengthen the product supply guarantee system, speed up the introduction of innovative drugs, and improve the sense of gains among patients, including introducing innovative products, making the supply chain more stable and ensuring drugs are accessible, and participating in making drugs more accessible, to benefit hundreds of millions of patients.
“Prevention of unknown diseases”: Promote unknown breakthrough technologies, introduce breakthrough technologies into China constantly, strengthen communication and cooperation, improve Chinese R&D capacity, and promote drug administration and international docking, and speed up the “prevention of unknown diseases” in the market, as the administrative environment is increasingly opened and the mode of payment is constantly improved in China.
Major social and economic value brought by innovative drugs: make people live longer, and reduce medical expenses
According to the data provided and cited in the report, the health result has indicated that the innovative pharmaceutical industry has promoted the average life expectancy significantly. According to the survey of the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), innovative drugs and therapies improved the average life expectancy by 45% in 30 countries from 1960 to 1997, and then the figure reached to 73% from 2000 to 2009. Since the founding of the new China, considerable progress has been made in the prevention and control of infectious diseases and the management of key chronic diseases, such as heart and cerebral vessels, and the average life expectancy in China was improved from 31 years old during the early founding period to 77.3 years old in 2019, being closed to the level of developed countries.
As new targeted drugs and immune drugs occur constantly, the life quality of patients with cancer has been effectively improved. With the success of immune therapy represented by PD-1/PD-L1 inhibitor, about 15% patients with cancer can relief their symptoms and even be cured. Currently in China, 40% patients with cancer can live generally for five years, up by ten percent points than a decade ago.
With the improvement of health, we have not only improved our people’s health, but also brought impressive economic benefits. As measured by McKinsey Global Institute (MGI), the potential impact of health improvement on Chinese GDP will be about USD 1.8 trillion in 2040, accounting for 5.6% of the GDP. In China, every RMB 1 investment in improving health conditions is expected to get RMB 2.2 economic returns, and bigger social bonus. By strengthening the R&D of innovative drugs and the accessible expenditure input, it’s of multiple values to both patients and the society, and can further improve people’s life quality, lengthen the average life expectancy, lower medical expenses and boost economic development.
Our country’s disease spectrum has changed, and the burden of diseases related to aging and lifestyle has increased
Meanwhile, the report has also pointed out that we are now facing big total burdens of diseases and the fast growth, and up till 2040, changes in our country’s disease spectrum will be similar to some developed countries (such as America and Germany), and the most burdens are from chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular diseases and cancer. As can be seen from the growth of disease burdens, as the life expectancy is lengthened and the aging problems are intensified, most burdens are from chronic diseases, such as diabetics, and chronic respiratory diseases, and the burden of cancer will be increasingly intensified. The four chronic diseases will still be the main cause of death. With the outbreak of COVID-19, it reminds us that the threat of infectious diseases will exist for a long term, posing new challenges to innovative pharmaceutical industry, and requesting the industry to provide effective plans for cancer, chronic diseases and infectious diseases from all aspects within the entire life cycle, improve people’s health level practically, and boost “Healthy China 2030”.
As disclosed in the report, although remarkable achievements were made in our public health system over the past decade, we are still facing huge challenges in disease monitoring, vaccination, the early screening of diseases and preventive guarantee. The vaccination rate is low, especially among adults. Taking flu as an example, the vaccination rate of flu vaccines can reach up to 60%-70% in some developed countries, but the annual vaccination rate of flu vaccines in our country is merely about 2%-3%. Moreover, the coverage rate for the early screening of diseases is low, for instance, the rate for females of key ages to receive breast cancer and cervical cancer screening is less than 30%, which is far lower than the 70-80% screening rate in developed countries.
It’s worth mentioning that, over the past 5 years, innovative pharmaceutical enterprises have introduced 6 new vaccine products urgently needed by Chinese residents (cervical cancer, rotavirus, herpes zoster, and infancy pneumococcus). For instance, deaths caused by rotavirus have been lowered by 35%. Besides, significant decrease has also been observed in the burden of cervical cancer, which is expected to drop fast, as vaccines are popularized. During COVID-19, about 20 world leading innovative pharmaceutical enterprises strengthened their cooperation in developing COVID-19 vaccines, regardless of the cost. Except for traditional vaccines that have been extensively applied before (such as inactivated virus vaccines, and recombinant virus carrier vaccines), huge progress has also been made in COVID-19 vaccines (such as mRNA vaccine).
Innovative drugs are more accessible, but still has difference with the public demands
As a major participator in the drug supply guarantee system, innovative pharmaceutical industry plays a key role in ensuring drug accessibility, and boosting healthy China in drug introduction, drug quality and other sectors.
According to the research result of RDPAC, owing to the positive reform we made in drug administration and approval over the past 5 years, totally 200 categories of innovative drugs were listed in China and 33% drugs were anti-tumor drugs, in which transnational pharmaceutical enterprises contributed 156 innovative categories, accounting for 80%. It’s worth mentioning that, more and more local innovative drugs have been listed in China and increased fast.
However, since the accessibility of innovative drugs is affected by different links and policies, many patients cannot use innovative drugs timely. As observed by RDPAC survey group, many drugs can only cover a small part of potential patients after being approved, and it’s still a prominent issue that many patients cannot use or afford such drugs. Taking innovative drugs as an example, the ratio in our pharmaceutical market is merely 9%, but the ratio in other G20 countries is above 20%, and in developed countries, such as America, Japan and Germany, the ratio is over 50%, indicating that we still have a big space for improvement, in terms of improving patients’ life quality through innovative drugs, for instance, in anti-tumor sector, the rate for the aforesaid Chinese tumor patients to live for five years can reach to 40%, which is still far lower than the nearly 70% rate in developed countries.
Scientific and technological innovation has been actively promoted in innovative pharmaceutical industry, and ten breakthrough technologies will enter the medical sector
As predicted in RDPAC report, R&D innovation will rely on ten breakthrough technologies in medical sector. It’s expected that about 20% disease burdens can be further lowered by promoting the listing of these breakthrough technologies, in which the five technical reforms (omics and molecular technologies, next generation pharmaceuticals, cell therapy and regenerative medicine, innovative vaccines and electronic drugs) are closely related to drug therapy, and will be led or deeply participated by innovative pharmaceutical enterprises, while the innovation of networked sensing equipment, advanced surgery, technology-support nursing services, robot and artificial limb, digital therapy and other surgeries and nursing therapy will reply on device technology companies.
Innovative pharmaceutical enterprises will serve as the main driver of scientific and technological innovation, to promote the in-depth cooperation with domestic enterprises, realize the conversion of transnational innovative achievements, lay a foundation for the listing of future breakthrough technologies, and take the initiative to integrate into Chinese innovative system, promote unknown breakthrough technologies, and speed up “the prevention of unknown diseases” as a therapeutic measure, as administrative environment is increasingly opened, and the mode of payment is constantly improved in China, to further solve the health difficulties faced by the people.
According to Asgar Rangoonwala, the President of RDPAC Executive Committee, “innovative pharmaceutical industry will be engaged in becoming the key partner for realizing “healthy China”, and will keep fulfilling “patient-centered” value, focus on the therapeutic sector requested by Chinese patients, and provide high-quality products and services to China at a comprehensive scale within the entire life cycle, and create end-to-end solutions for patients. In addition, it will also focus on social responsibility and industrial development, and cooperate with the government, industry, schools and research institutions, to boost the development of biological medicines, and provide constant assistance to China, to set up a sustainable medical health system, and build win-win innovative health ecology for all parties.”
Please click here to read the full report.