Pharma’s Next Billion Patients

bcg.perspectives – Pharma’s Next-Billion Patients

BCG offers a fascinating look at what is at stake for big pharma in China. For that reason alone it is worth reading if you have even the least interest in healthcare in the PRC.

The report’s omissions are glaring, however. Perhaps because it would be impolitic to mention, the report avoids the really tricky questions around pharma in China today. One glaring example: it fails to mention the industry’s long-standing dependence on unsavory practices to get drugs prescribed, and how such behavior places the entire pharmaceuticals industry at risk of heavy-handed government intervention.

As the GSK case proved last summer, the growing focus on healthcare at the highest levels in China’s policy-making apparatus means that the pharma business needs to clean up its act, lest it become a victim of China’s healthcare boom rather than a beneficiary.

BCG’s researchers and consultants almost certainly knew this was a danger long before the GSK case came to light. That they did not bring this out in the report – that they pulled their punches – reduces what deserves to be an industry primer to the level of little more than marketing collateral.

BCG’s report is an essential piece in understanding the pharmaceutical business in China today. It should be read with an ample dip into the news that has come out since its publication.

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Asia and Disease

In The Global Burden of Disease: Generating Evidence, Guiding Policy—East Asia and Pacific Regional Edition, the World Bank and the Institute for Health Metrics and Examination summarize differences in diseases, injuries, and risk factors for the East Asia and Pacific region and summarizes intraregional differences in diseases, injuries, and risk factors. Unsurprisingly, some countries do a better job than others.

Preventing Childhood Obesity: China’s Next Great Health Challenge?

Crop of Children with various body composition...

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Early Childhood Obesity Prevention Policies
Institute of Medicine
The National Academies Press
October 2011
140pp

As a nation that is still developing and remains largely poor, China has not yet had to contend with the challenge of early childhood obesity. A walk along the shopping avenues in Beijing or Shanghai during a national holiday, watching prosperous urban parents walking with their youngsters, is enough to make one realize that China’s reckoning with fat kids is coming, and right soon – at least for prosperous urban dwellers.

The United States is already dealing with a serious early childhood obesity problem, a matter that affects not only parents and health officials, but physicians, child care providers, and the folks in charge of providing children with lunches and meal programs. The Institute of Medicine of the National Academies of Science has produced a blueprint to prevent and reduce early childhood obesity.

China’s Ministry of Health would do well to tap this resource. As fast foods proliferate and diets in China get richer, children here will start to face the same challenges as their counterparts in the US.

How to Bring Healthcare Home

New Integrated patient lift for use in home ca...

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Perhaps the single most important change that is taking place in health care in the United States is the effort to shift non-intensive patient care out of hospitals and back into their homes. Convalescence and long-term care are no longer cost-effective in a hospital environment, the thinking goes; patients recover more quickly in familiar and comfortable surroundings; and, at the macro level, as the nation ages we are going to find ourselves with a shortage of hospital beds unless we either a) spend the national treasure on building more and bigger hospitals, or b) shift care outside of the hospital.

America is not alone in this regard. Look at any society in the world that is aging, and you will find policymakers and medical professionals wrestling with the same issue, and the next major country to do so will be China.

For that reason, Health Care Comes Home: The Human Factors is not only timely, it is also relevant far beyond the U.S. In the book, the authors begin by shooting a commonly-held misconception: the success of in-home care does not hinge on technology as much as it does on the caregivers who must use it.

Preparing a new generation of caregivers as home caregivers is, therefore, essential, as is designing a new generation of machines. The success of home care means that the caregivers must be able to use the technology that will make the practice practicable, and the companies designing home-care equipment will have to take into account a series of factors vastly different from those they use to develop devices for hospital use.

As an example of one device where this has already happened, look at the automated external defibrillator, or AED. Forty years ago, defibrillators were used outside of hospitals only by doctors, nurses, or paraprofessionals with six months training. Today, anybody with a modest IQ and a calm disposition can use an AED. That type of change now has to be extended to dozens of complex medical devices in order to make home care both feasible and effective. The better the designers get at their work, the more care that can be moved outside of the hospitals.

This book is a fascinating look at the future of healthcare. All of us will be affected by its conclusions, so whether you are a medical professional, or if you pride yourself on being an informed consumer of medical services, this book is well worth reading.

Three Essays on Hypertension Prevention and Medical Product Safety in China and the United States

I know it sounds technical and esoteric, but this dissertation by Ying Liu at the RAND Graduate School is worth reading even if you just want to read the last essay. In that piece, Liu examines the state of China’s drug safety regime in the wake of the scandals between 2006 and 2008 that led to the sacking of China’s senior pharmaceutical regulator. The author looks at what has been fixed – and what has not – since China’s drug safety last made global headlines, providing a subtle warning about the problems that may yet come from that sector.

HHS in the 21st Century: Charting a Course for a Healthier America

This pdf book examines how America’s public health bureaucracy needs to address changes in the challenges it faces. Challenges change faster than organizations, and this blue-ribbon panel noted that America’s health ministry needed a new look and feel.

One can only wonder if medical bureaucrats elsewhere in the world are conducting any kind of penetrating self-examination.