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诺华CEO:中国将成为药物研发重镇

Scott Cendrowski 2016年06月19日

瑞士制药巨头诺华投下数十亿美元,押宝未来几年中国将药物研发领域取得重大进步。

位于瑞士巴塞尔的诺华耗资10亿美元,在上海新开了一家研发机构。这是公司第三家大型 药物开发中心,另外两家分别在美国马萨诸塞州坎布里奇和瑞士巴塞尔。

诺华的这一举措表明,中国可能在研发救命药物方面发挥新的作用。10年前,诺华这样的公司被吸引到中国,主要是因为中国科研人员的薪水只有美国科研人员的十分之一。今天,由于中国的新兴中产阶级对健康上的支出不断增加,以及中国培养的科学家人数超过了其他任何国家,诺华不得不投巨资于中国,尽管面临不少挑战。

挑战之一是政府对药价的压力。在中国,处方药占到医疗支出总额的40%(美国只有 15%),因此中国政府为了削减成本,更青睐仿制药。

中国在药物研发上也落后于世界,还存在制度障碍,比如新药的注册流程缓慢。中国的新药审批时间是美国的两倍。此外,还数次曝出丑闻:因为一桩贿赂案子,葛兰素史克两年前向中国缴纳了4.9亿美元罚款。美国监管机构指控诺华为了增加销售额向中国医务人员行贿,公司在今年3月为此支付了2,500万美元。

但有分析师称,中国政府已经决定做出一些改革,比如在去年取消了数百种西方国家药品的价格管制,政府也投入重金用于药物研究。

诺华CEO江慕忠日前与《财富》杂志谈论了中国在全球药品开发中的角色变化,以及中国是否有创新的能力。以下是谈话摘编。

The Basel-based company opened a new, $1 billion research and development campus in Shanghai today. With two other R&D centers in Cambridge, Mass., and Basel, Switzerland, it marks the company’s third main hub for drug research.

Novartis’s bet reflects the new role the Chinese could play in discovering life-changing drugs. Ten years ago, companies like Novartis  NVS -0.39%  were attracted to China because scientist salaries were just a tenth of those in the U.S. Now, with China’s ascendant middle class spending more on healthcare and the country producing more scientists than anywhere, global drug giants are forced to invest heavily in China despite the challenges.

Those challenges include government pressure on drug prices. In China, prescriptions drugs drive around 40% of total healthcare spending compared to 15% in the U.S., so the government has preferred generics to cut costs.

China also lags the world in drug discovery and suffers regulatory hurdles like a slow registration process for new drugs (drug approval in China takes twice the time as in the U.S.). There are scandals as well: GlaxoSmithKline paid a $490 million fine to settle a bribery case in China two years ago, while Novartis settled with the S.E.C. for $25 million in March in a case in which U.S. regulators alleged it paid bribes to Chinese healthcare workers to drive sales.

But analysts say the Chinese government is determined to change its reputation as place of little innovation. Last year, for instance, price controls were lifted on hundreds of Western drugs and the government is spending heavily on research.

Novartis CEO Joe Jimenez sat down withFortune yesterday to talk about China’s changing role in the global pharmaceutical game and whether the country can really innovate. The following conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

诺华在上海的研发中心
 

为何选在中国设立大型研发中心?

中国坚定发展本国的制药行业,每年在研发上的投入达200亿美元,仅次于美国。这样的投入已经持续好些年了。至少在过去5年是如此。中国一年培养3万个科学和工程博士,远超美国和欧洲;中国每年的科学、理工和数学专业大学毕业生有250万人,是美国的5倍。

这个国家的人才呈现爆炸式增长。诺华要到有人才的地方去,因为我们知道,巴塞尔以外的科学家和医生不一定想来巴塞尔。

我们视这座中心为真正的全球化研发中心。我们完全在中国研发的第一种药很快就会走进医院。它是治疗肝纤维化的药物,将行销全球。

中国人的创新对于新药的发现起到了什么特殊的作用?

以前在某些领域,中国人没有表现出创新能力。而现在,情况明显在发生变化。我觉得一个原因是出现了新的科技,还出现了诺华这样的用研发新药的路子来培训中国科学家的公司。

至少在制药行业,迟早有一天,中国会经常做出突破性的创新。我对此坚信不疑,因为中国政府正在为此投入资源。我不认为,在中国人的本性里面,有什么东西会妨碍他们创新。我相信,中国人正在学会如何发现重大药物。

在药品研发方,中国比西方如何?

中国还处于早期,拿棒球赛来说,它现在处于第三局。

10年前呢?

第一局。或者还在练习击球。

我觉得,你会在10年内看到巨大变化。我们建的这座研发中心是打算使用 20年的。这个国家的医疗业会持续增长,因为它的农村人口正在进入中产阶级。不管什么国家,如果中产阶级在增长,对医疗的需求就会增长。所以,中国会一直增长下去。由于中国在拼命培训这么多博士,它肯定会成为药物研发的温床。当然不是在明天,而是在较长的一段时期以后。

在过去10年,诺华对中国的看法有什么变化吗?

10年前,中国只有我们的前20大市场之一。现在,它进了前10名。用不了几名,它就会成为第二名或第三名。

如今,每个中国人,无论居住在城市还农村,都能享受到基本水平的药品报销。这是一个巨大的变化,是能让行业在中国的增长实现两位数的一件事。现在,我们假定增长在5%左右,可就是这个增长率也比美国和欧洲高得多。

中国在未来很多年都会是重要的市场,它会经历周期,会有好年份和坏年份。但它肯定会给我们这样的公司带来大幅增长。

可最近一个第四财务季度,诺华的中国业务只增长了5%,怎么回事?

一位数增长将是中国的新常态。过去5年,我们经常出现11%或12%的增长。经济放缓造成了增长率下降,因为在中国,很多药还是得患者自掏腰包。但我们要说,和美国的1%到2%或欧洲的1%相比,这样的增长还是相当不错的。

中国政府最近致力于削减医药费用。这是否给诺华带来压力?

中国政府竭力扩大看病报销的覆盖地区。不只有药品,而是整个医疗体制。

所以,当地方政府为了某种特殊药品而招标或是为了压低价格采用落价时拍卖时,竞标变得更加激烈。即便有这样的价格压力,即便经济放缓,你还能实现这样的一位数增长,已经相当不错了。

那么,价格压力和低增长决定了中国业务的未来吗?

到处都是新常态,制药行业现在也不例外。在这种形势下,你最好能创新。因为,只要你能创新,给市场带来了突破性的新药,消费者就会埋单。 (财富中文网)

译者:天逸

Why open a big R&D center in China?

The country has made a commitment to build a domestic pharmaceutical industry. So they’re spending about $200 billion a year on research and development, second only to the U.S. and this has been going on for a number of years. At least the last five. They churn out 30,000 Ph.D.s a year in science and engineering. Far more than the U.S. or Europe. We see about 2.5 million graduates a year in the STEM fields, which is five times the U.S.

What’s happened is there’s been an explosion of talent in China. At Novartis, we build where the talent is because we know that scientists and physicians don’t necessarily want to move to Basel if they’re not from there.

We’re treating this as a truly global R&D center. The first drug for us that was fully discovered in China is about to enter into the clinic. It’s a drug for liver fibrosis. And that’s going to be a global drug.

Can Chinese innovation make a difference in discovering new drugs?

The Chinese historically have not been proven innovators in certain areas. If you look at what’s happening now, it’s changing. I think partly because of the flood of new technologies that are emerging, and companies like Novartis that are training Chinese scientists in the way that we discover drugs.

At least in the pharmaceutical industry, there will come a time when breakthrough innovation occurs in China on a regular basis. I’m convinced of that only because the government has put the resources there to make it happen. I don’t think there’s anything innate in the Chinese that would prevent them from innovating. I think part of it is being trained in how great drug discovery takes place.

How does China compare to the West in terms of drug discovery?

Well it’s still early. If it were a baseball game, it would be the third inning.

How about 10 years ago?

The first inning, or batting practice.

And I think in 10 years you’re going to see a big change. This R&D center that we’ve built is a 20-year commitment. This is a country that is going to continue to grow in healthcare because you’ve got a rural population that is moving into the middle class. In any country, when the middle class grows, demand for health care increases. So this is going to continue to be a place of growth as a country. Because they are so committed to churning out these Ph.D.s, this is going to become a hotbed for pharma R&D. Not tomorrow, but in the long-term.

How has Novartis’s thinking about China changed in the past 10 years?

Ten years ago this country was only in our top 20 markets. Today’s it’s in our top 10. In a short number of years it’s going to be number two or number three.

Today, every Chinese person, whether rural or urban, has at least some basic level of pharmaceutical reimbursement. And that’s a huge change. That’s one of things that lead to a growth rate that used to be double-digits in China. Now we’re assuming it’s going to be mid-single digits. But that’s still significantly higher than in Europe or the U.S.

This is going to be a big market for many years to come. It’s going to go through cycles. You’ll see good years and bad years. But this is going to drive a lot of growth for companies like ours.

In Novartis’s latest fourth quarter, growth was just 5% in China. Why?

Single-digit growth is going to be the new normal in China. We had consistently seen 11% or 12% growth five or six years ago. The economic slowdown has led to a slowing because a lot of pharmaceuticals in China are still paid out-of-pocket. But we’re saying look, when you compare to U.S.’s 1% to 2% growth or Europe’s 1%, it’s pretty good.

The government has recently worked to reduce drug costs. Does that pressure Novartis?

The Chinese government is trying to make their reimbursement bills stretch as far as they can. It’s not just the pharmaceuticals but the whole healthcare system in China.

So tendering becomes more intense when local provinces will tender for a particular type of drug, or use reverse auctions to try to drive the prices down. Even with all that pricing pressure and with the slowdown of the economy, you still see this single-digit growth, so it’s still pretty good.

So pricing pressures and lower growth will define China in the future?

It’s the new normal everywhere. This is part of the pharmaceutical industry now. In situation like that, you’d better be innovating. Because if you’re innovating and bringing new drugs to market that really are breakthroughs, they’re going to get reimbursed.

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