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Wyeth »01/04/2007 [Company watch]
Wyeth considering relocation from China to India

Exasperated by the slow pace of regulatory procedures in China for the approval of new drugs, American pharmaceutical and healthcare giant Wyeth is believed to be exploring the option of relocating its Asian drugs research operations from China to India. Sherry Ku, Wyeth’s senior director in China, has been quoted in the local media as saying on the sidelines of a pharmaceutical conference in Hainan province that, while there was, as of now, no timetable for shifting to India, such a move was possible, even inevitable, if the regulatory environment in mainland China did not improve.

 

HONG KONG: Exasperated by the slow pace of regulatory procedures in China for the approval of new drugs, American pharmaceutical and healthcare giant Wyeth is believed to be exploring the option of relocating its Asian drugs research operations from China to India.

Sherry Ku, Wyeth’s senior director in China, has been quoted in the local media as saying on the sidelines of a pharmaceutical conference in Hainan province that, while there was, as of now, no timetable for shifting to India, such a move was possible, even inevitable, if the regulatory environment in mainland China did not improve.

According to data made available by the New Jersey-based pharmaceutical company, approval for new drug sales and research in mainland China typically takes up to nine months. In contrast, in India, it takes between 2-3 weeks. In other markets, such as the US, Britain, Japan, Korea, Singapore and Hong Kong, it takes about a month.

Wyeth has invested billions of yuan in the mainland in drugs research over the past 15 years, and plans to further expand its operations in Asia. By some estimates, it is looking to double the number of researchers to about 2,500.

If the current mood of international pharma players is anything to go by, India could stand to gain from its rather more business-friendly regulatory environment.
Wyeth is not the only pharma major to be afflicted by the China fever. In a recent report on the Chinese bio-pharma industry, Deloitte Touché Tohmatsu noted that while there was little doubt that China offers "bountiful - and tempting - opportunities" for bio-pharma companies, multinational corporations should "proceed prudently", given the complexities of China’s economy.

China’s allure as a place to set up R&D operations "is in part offset" by its poor protection of intellectual property rights, which is "an especially sensitive issue" for pharmaceutical and biotech companies, notes Deloitte.

"A tremendous number of counterfeit drugs, especially over-the-counter drugs, are circulating throughout China… Doing business in China, therefore, requires a firm to weigh the economic benefits against the IP risks, and to implement a practical IP strategy to reduce those risks."

At least one US-based pharma company employs security staff to investigate counterfeit products, complete with compilations of product labelling and photographs of counterfeiting factories. It then presents these to the police and asks them to conduct raids.


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