By Nopporn Wong-Anan
(Reuters) - British drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline said its Asia-Pacific sales could double in five years as growing prosperity boosts demand for better healthcare and as it cuts prices in some Asian countries.
GSK Asia Pacific chief Christophe Weber said on Monday the company aimed to boost sales in countries such as China, Indonesia and the Philippines by selling drugs and vaccines for less than it typically charged in developed countries. Clearly there will be a very high demand in the future because the economic development of the countries in the region and people want more healthcare, Weber told Reuters on the sidelines of a regional media workshop in Singapore. GSK Asia Pacific last year chalked up 1.18 billion pounds ($2 billion) in sales last year, accounting for just under 5 percent of the company\'s total sales. GSK estimates its Asia-Pacific pharmaceutical market share at 5.3 percent, making it the region\'s fourth largest player. Highlighting the region\'s potential, GSK said Asia Pacific had twice the number of newborns compared with North America or Western Europe, but mortality rates for mothers were 12 times higher than in Europe. For children under five, the mortality rate was 3 times higher than in the Americas. A lot of the deaths in children in the region could have been prevented by vaccination had they been more accessible and affordable, Weber said. Price is one dimension, but it is a vital one. You need to have an affordable vaccine, that\'s one of the strategies we are accelerating, he said.
GSK opened a $411 million plant in Singapore this month, its second site producing vaccine against pneumonia-causing bacteria. It will take up to two years to test the new plant before commercial production starts. The other site is in Belgium. Since the H1N1 outbreak began in April, the governments of Australia, New Zealand, Taiwan and Singapore have bought GSK\'s Relenza flu treatment, Weber said. GSK said it has advised governments to buy and stock more of Relenza, which is used to treat flus such as the H1N1 virus that is spreading across the globe, for a more effective response in dealing with a viral outbreak.
There have been some publications showing that there is some level of resistance developed for Tamiflu, Weber said of the product made by competitor Roche (ROG.VX): In case there will be more resistance to Tamiflu, Relenza will be a good alternative. GSK is also developing vaccine against the H1N1 flu virus, which is reported to have killed 306 worldwide and infected at least 67,000 as of June 26. The World Health Organisation (WHO) earlier this month declared the first flu pandemic of the 21st century and advised governments to prepare for a long battle against H1N1. (Editing by Kevin Lim and Dan Lalor) ($1 0= 0.6052 pounds)