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Chinese Medical Market Attracts Global Players

2019-11-29 13:39:00 Source:China Today Author:DAND XIAOFEI
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JOSEPH Romanelli was extremely busy during the second China International Import Expo (CIIE) in Shanghai. The global senior vice president and China region president of the U.S.-based pharmaceutical company Merck & Co., Inc. (also known as MSD) dealt with a flood of orders that came in for its new tumor immunotherapy drug PD-1 inhibitor. It has a significant therapeutic effect on tumors and attracted much interest from buyers in the medical field at the expo that took place from November 5 to 10. “China’s medical market has huge potential, and I am very optimistic about the Chinese market,” said Romanelli.

                                                                           Varian Medical Systems puts on display their AI driven adaptive radiotherapy technology.

Huge Market Potential in China

China has a population of nearly 1.4 billion people. Since its reform and opening-up kicked off, Chinese people’s average life expectancy has been rising steadily, and reached 77 in 2018, giving rise to the challenge of an aging population. According to the latest data released by the National Bureau of Statistics, by the end of 2018, there were 249 million people aged more than 60 in China, accounting for 17.9 percent of the population. In this context, China has become the second largest medical market in the world, second only to the U.S.

In the medical equipment and healthcare exhibition area of the second CIIE, foreign medical giants from all over the world brought the latest in goods and services, which caught the attention of Chinese buyers, creating millions of dollars’ worth of orders.

Boehringer-Ingelheim, a German pharmaceutical company, signed RMB 200 million worth of contracts with purchasers at the second CIIE. Yin Yuhan, the company’s vice president of corporate communications in China, is full of confidence in the Chinese market. “In recent years, as China’s economy has developed rapidly, people’s living standards have improved, the demand for health products has increased, and people have invested more and more in health. This provides a huge space for the growth of China’s medical industry,” said Yin.

The outline of “Healthy China 2030” issued in 2016 predicts that the total scale of China’s health service industry will reach RMB 16 trillion by 2030. Dai Yong, the China region vice president of Canon Medical Systems, the largest medical equipment supplier in Japan, said that with the implementation of the Healthy China plan, the country’s medical industry has ushered in a major development opportunity. “From this we can see the huge development potential of the Chinese medical market,” said Dai.


                                                                                       The Zeiss high definition fundus camera booth of Germany.

Early Ventures

MSD entered the Chinese market 30 years ago by bringing the world’s most advanced production technology of the recombinant hepatitis B vaccine to China. At present, MSD has more than 6,500 employees in China, with its headquarters in Shanghai, R&D center in Beijing and factory in Hangzhou, realizing the integration of R&D, manufacturing and commercial operation. Over the past 30 years, MSD has supplied more than 40 kinds of human medicine and vaccines to the Chinese market.

Like MSD, many foreign companies entered the Chinese market early on. Canon Medical has been in China for more than 40 years, and Boehringer-Ingelheim 25 years.

In 2017, China officially joined the ICH (The International Council for Harmonisation of Technical Requirements for Pharmaceuticals for Human Use) and has truly integrated into the international drug regulatory system in terms of drug registration and approval procedures. In recent years, the approval process of newly marketed drugs in China has been gradually accelerated. The Roche anti-cancer drug Alecensa, which appeared at the first CIIE last year, won approval in China nine months after it was approved in the U.S., and the first batch of prescriptions was issued in China within 47 days after its approval.

“I’m very excited that the medical reform will be further deepened and accelerated, and innovation opportunities will continue to emerge. China’s medical environment is getting increasingly better, and the company is more confident about its future development in China,” said Romanelli, noting that in the past two years, dozens of new products of MSD have been approved in China every year.

With China’s increasingly improved medical environment, foreign enterprises are also constantly exploring new business. Boehringer-Ingelheim opened the first stroke rehabilitation center in Shanghai. “The Chinese market has a demand for high-quality stroke rehabilitation services. After a year of operation, the center is very popular, and we decided to replicate it in other cities of China,” said Yin Yuhan.

Many foreign medical companies have also begun to cooperate with Chinese enterprises. Last year, MSD and AliHealth jointly launched the strategic cooperation project of “say no to cervical cancer,” while at this CIIE, Boehringer-Ingelheim signed strategic cooperation agreements with seven local Internet hospitals, and planned to increase investment of € 174 million in China from 2019 to 2023. Canon Medical Systems, meanwhile, is also planning to cooperate with Chinese medical enterprises, and set up factories in China for localized production.


At the second CIIE, Bayer presents innovative products and development concepts, and displays prescription drugs and health products centered around the theme “Better Life.”

Cutting-Edge Intelligent Medical Services

With the development of AI technology, 5G network, big data, cloud computing, and other digital technologies, intelligent health care has also become a focus of global medical companies.

Canon Medical Systems exhibited its main attraction, artificial intelligence CT (computed tomography), which is a world’s first. “With AI technology, CT products can greatly improve the image quality. The dose of X-ray received by patients is also greatly reduced,” said Dai Yong. During the exhibition period, artificial intelligence CT attracted much attention. “In the first four days, more than 10 large hospitals signed purchase letters of intent with the company,” said Dai, who added that more customers were expected to be in contact with them after the expo.

AstraZeneca is a bio-pharmaceutical company headquartered in Cambridge, U.K. Its magnetic-controlled capsule gastroscope is unique. Wang Huan, a representative of the company at the second CIIE, said that patients only need to swallow a small capsule weighing less than five grams, and can then easily complete a comfortable, reassuring and accurate gastroscopy examination within 15 minutes. Through the precise magnetic field control technology, the capsule can take the photos over a range of 360 degrees in all directions in the stomach, and the AI can assist the doctor to identify problem areas. “It also introduces the 5G system to realize tele-medicine owing to its having a large bandwidth and low delay. In the near future, through 5G coverage, people can enjoy front-line medical services at home, so as to achieve better medical integration,” said Wang.

Sanofi, a French biopharmaceutical company, demonstrated an intelligent vaccination clinic in the exhibition area. The intelligent outpatient service includes four steps: appointment, sign-off, inoculation, and in-hospital observation. “People can make an appointment and register on the app launched by the company, fill in the basic personal information; reconfirm the information on the machine after going to the clinic, and carry out fingerprint verification. The intelligent cold storage drug delivery system will then automatically dispense the medicine according to the personal information, and the medical staff can directly use the medicine for vaccine injection. Finally, it will take 30 minutes for the patient to stay in the hospital for observation. All processes use VR technology for facial recognition,” said company representative Huai Jiali.

On the prospect of intelligent medical treatment, Dai Yong said this is the inevitable trend of future medical development. AI has greatly improved the accuracy and rapidity of machine diagnosis. “In the future, Canon Medical Systems will vigorously promote the application of AI in medical machines, and the new generation of medical equipment will be equipped with AI technology,” said Dai. 

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