Viet Nam's pharma industry has great potential for growth

Wednesday, Dec 14, 2022 12:16

Nitin Kapoor, Chairman and General Director of AstraZeneca Vietnam and Asia Area Frontier Markets

Viet Nam is classified in the group of fast-growing pharmaceutical markets given its rapid economic growth, rising income per capita and aging population. Viet Nam News reporter Mai Huong talks to Nitin Kapoor, Chairman and General Director of AstraZeneca Viet Nam and Asia Area Frontier Markets, about the outlook for Viet Nam’s pharma sector and cooperation potential with UK companies in this sector.

How do you value Viet Nam’s pharmaceutical market?

Viet Nam’s pharmaceutical market has experienced rapid growth over the last few years, owing to dynamic economic development, rising incomes and increased awareness. Even though COVID-19 posed challenges to all industries across the country including pharmaceuticals, we’re bouncing back in the second half of 2022 and working hard to ensure patients’ access to high quality medicines.

It’s an industry with great potential for growth, as well as support from the Vietnamese Government for its important role in protecting and maintaining people’s health. The Prime Minister issued Decision No. 376/QD-TTg dated 17 March 2021 to comprehensively develop the pharmaceutical industry. The government also strongly encourages public-private partnerships and foreign direct investment to accelerate this process.

Viet Nam has a high demand for drugs and medical devices which UK companies have a long legacy specialising in. What do you see as the potential cooperation between the two sides, especially when the UK-Viet Nam Free Trade Agreement (UKVFTA) has secured easier access for UK’s pharmaceutical producers?

As a British-Swedish company with a local entity in Viet Nam, we recognise that the UKVFTA is bringing about several benefits in the healthcare and pharmaceutical sector, including ensured import/export rights, reduced tariffs, increased protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights, especially of pharmaceutical patents, internationalised standards and technical regulations, and enhanced transparency of policies on government procurement and reimbursement for pharmaceutical products and medical devices.

In turn, these positive changes will help to increase bilateral trade between the two countries in this field, with the mutual goal to help patients in both countries have better access to high-quality healthcare products.

According to the Ministry of Trade and Industry, after the first year of implementation of the UKVFTA, two-way trade in goods between the two countries reached US$6.6 billion, an increase of 17.2 per cent compared to 2020. Just in the first year of the UKVFTA taking effect, UK pharma exports to Viet Nam increased 35 per cent in terms of value. We also hope that gradually, the UKVFTA will contribute to creating a more favourable environment for UK businesses – particularly in pharmaceutical and supplement sectors, attracting more established companies or innovative start-ups to enter or do business with Viet Nam.

Protection of intellectual property rights is key to better access to high-quality innovative medicines. How do you assess Viet Nam’s improvements in this issue in recent years?

As we have seen in the news, recently the government has made great efforts to tackle the issue of illegal, unknown, counterfeit or infringing pharmaceutical products in the country. Actions like these are crucial to ensure the health of patients as well as the integrity of the business environment.

Over the last few years, with several new FTAs entering into effect, the Vietnamese government has recognised the need to improve intellectual property rights. Viet Nam’s National Assembly ratified the Amended Intellectual Property Law in June 2022, which is the most significant set of amendments since the Law was promulgated in 2005.

As intellectual property is a comprehensive matter concerning various government ministries and local authorities, we hope to see closer collaboration among stakeholders with joint actions and more practical measures to strengthen the enforcement of applicable laws and regulations. Enhanced intellectual property rights will help Viet Nam attract more investment in clinical trials and the manufacture of medicines, further boost the R&D and production capabilities, and gain early access to new and advanced medicines for Vietnamese patients.

The Vietnamese government expects to develop a modern and self-reliant pharmaceutical industry. How can British pharma companies, including AstraZeneca, support its plan?

During the pandemic, we witnessed first-hand the vital role that vaccines and medicines play to limit the spread of the virus, protect people’s health and alleviate the pressure on health systems. Thanks to the Vietnamese Government’s effective vaccine diplomacy as well as companies and partners’ efforts to supply early to Viet Nam, our vaccination rate quickly shot up and led the country out of the lockdown last year.

And then this year, vaccines and medicines continue to be indispensable as other non-communicable and infectious diseases such as influenza and dengue fever, became more prevalent in the new COVID phase. Self-sufficiency in vaccine and medicine supply becomes ever more important for the sustainability and resilience of the health system.

As a multinational company with a local entity in Viet Nam, we are investing in the local contract manufacturing and tech transfer of several key products of AstraZeneca for Vietnamese patients. With a $90 million investment that was announced during Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh’s visit to the UK last year, we are working with a local partner to transfer the necessary technology and knowledge, to ensure they can manufacture our high-quality products in line with AstraZeneca’s global standards.

In addition, we are also supporting to uplift Viet Nam’s R&D capabilities through investing US$25 million from 2020 to 2024, running 40 clinical trials involving close to 3,000 local patients, in partnership with 44 hospitals across the country to develop many new medicines for the world. Having more Vietnamese patients included in clinical trials alongside global populations will help to ensure that the vaccines and medicines developed best reflect the needs of local communities and provide them with the right defence against different infectious diseases.

Moreover, as part of the Partnership for Health System Sustainability and Resilience (PHSSR), we are also supporting the Health Strategy and Policy Institute – Ministry of Health on policy research and recommendations to ensure Viet Nam’s self-sufficiency in medicine and vaccine supplies. — VNS

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