Driven by 2020’s highlights, international pharma giants are planning to deliver more vital medicines and vaccines to Vietnam in 2021 to tap into local demands and enable the country to weather future crises.
After a successful year in the Vietnamese market, British-Swedish pharmaceutical group AstraZeneca Vietnam (AZ) is mulling over a new strategy in the country, focused on innovation, expansion, and partnerships underpinned by sustainability and people development.
“In this year when COVID-19 remains part of the picture, we will work hard to continue to deliver vital medicines to patients and ensure that no-one is left behind when the health system is facing great burdens,” Nitin Kapoor, AZ’s chairman cum general director, told VIR.
Other multinational corporations (MNCs) like GSK, Pfizer, Novartis, and others are also making similar moves in the context that the world is still grappling with COVID-19 and the risks associated with the pandemic are continuing to increase around the world.
A representative of Pfizer explained, “Pfizer hopes to engage with the Ministry of Health (MoH) and the Vietnamese government to bring Pfizer/BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine to Vietnam. In addition, Pfizer remains committed to our purpose of delivering breakthroughs that change patients’ lives; and is committed to partnering with the MoH and key stakeholders to ensure the sustainable, timely, and affordable introduction of innovative medicines to patients who need them.”
Pfizer Vietnam will invest in resources and infrastructure. “We will also be collaborating with industry stakeholders to develop Vietnam’s pharmaceutical industry as an innovative life science hub in Southeast Asia with the 2030 plan and vision to 2035,” he noted.
Investing in people
Elsewhere, GSK is continuing the establishment of a sustainable and accountable business in Vietnam in 2021, by setting the goal to bring more diverse antibiotics and respiratory medicines together with a life-course vaccine portfolio that meets the local disease pattern and supports healthcare professionals to treat patients.
“Our consecutive efforts are helping to improve healthcare professional education and training activities, contributing efforts to tackle serious healthcare issues, collaborating for disease awareness, and committing to community partnerships for broadening access to basic healthcare. We will invest more in our people to ensure we have the best resources in place to serve Vietnamese patients,” said Nguyen Thi Tuong Vi, head of Regulatory, Communication, and Government Affairs at GSK Vietnam.
The MNCs made the plans in the wake of growing burdens on diseases, especially non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in Vietnam. Such diseases now account for 73 per cent of all deaths and 60 per cent of the disease burden, and NCDs are expected to cause three-quarters of the disease burden in low- and middle-income countries by 2030.
In this context, Vietnam’s drug spending per capita continues to grow, rising 10.6 per cent on-year to about $53.50 in 2018, and is forecast to rise further in the near future, according to the MoH. Imports are currently around 55 per cent of the country’s total pharmaceuticals demand.
Moreover, MNCs are expected to benefit more from the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership and the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement, which open the Vietnamese market in fields that businesses have been seeking particular solutions to for years, including direct pharmaceuticals imports.
MNCs made some advances in Vietnamese operations in 2020 despite COVID-19. While this past year has been a real test to the whole world, AZ’s innovative and patient-centric spirit has helped it not only rise to the unique challenges posed by the pandemic but also maintain remarkable growth.
“We became one of the first pharmaceutical MNCs to successfully sign a landmark local distribution partnership, allowing us to better deliver our life-changing medicines to millions of Vietnamese patients,” said Kapoor of AZ. The company has also accelerated its digital transformation, reaching over 80,000 healthcare professionals virtually even during lockdowns and supporting major hospitals in their telehealth and digital healthcare education programmes.
Promoting sustainability is also one of AZ’s top priorities both globally and in Vietnam. Besides existing and expanding programmes like the Healthy Lung Programme and Young Health Programme, which aim to reduce NCDs in local communities, this year it also launched multiple new projects such as Green Energy for Health, in which AZ will donate solar energy systems to local health facilities.
For GSK, it has been driving focus into ensuring employee safety as well as maintaining its medicine and vaccine accessible and available for those in need. The company’s highlights in 2020 were its strategic priorities delivery that helped it become one of the top-performing innovative and trusted science-led companies.
Meanwhile, Pfizer has supported charitable contributions under the Pharma Group and is also working with key stakeholders on numerous healthcare initiatives including an open dialogue regarding the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 candidate vaccine.