‘Pharmaceuticals need President Moon’s committed support’

Lee Hye-seon  Published 2019.01.17  17:39  Updated 2019.01.17 17:39


The chief of Korea’s representative biopharmaceutical industry group called for the government’s full support for the sector, calling the pharmaceutical business “the future of Korea.”

Won Hee-mok, chairman of the Korea Pharmaceutical and Bio-Pharma Manufacturers Association (KPBMA), said the government has been treating the pharmaceutical sector as something to be regulated, even though it is a technology-intensive industry just like the semiconductor sector.

Won Hee-mok, chairman of the Korea Pharmaceutical and Bio-Pharma Manufacturers Association, speaks during a news conference at the KPBMA’s office in Seoul, Thursday.

Exports of semiconductors used to take up only 2.5 percent of the total exports in the 1980s, but the proportion jumped to 21 percent in 2018, Won said. Korea’s superior technologies and the strong government support for semiconductors helped them account for 26.5 percent of the 500 trillion won ($445.3 billion) global semiconductor market, he added.

“The government has been demanding us fulfill our ‘social duties’ by controlling drug prices under a social insurance system. We need such a role, but the government lacked the will to nurture our sector,” Won said. Even though Korean pharmaceuticals account for less than 2 percent of the global pharmaceutical market, they have “explosive potential” with abundant pipelines, he emphasized.

To increase the sector’s pie, Korea should benchmark a public-private cooperation model in advanced nations including those of Belgium and Switzerland, Won said.

According to KPBMA, Belgium invests one-third of the state R&D in the pharmaceutical industry. Switzerland supports 20 percent of research expenses for 1,000 industrial cooperation projects per year.

In Korea, the private sector used to find it difficult to communicate with the government and had to follow the government’s instructions in the past, Won said.

However, the situation is changing.

“The government made meaningful efforts to maintain our ranking for pharmaceutical biddings in Vietnam. However, we need more support,” he said.

Won emphasized that the pharmaceutical industry needed President Moon Jae-in’s dedicated support, as well as cooperation between private and public sector for nurturing the business.

“I hope President Moon will declare that the nation would promote the pharmaceutical sector because the top decisionmaker’s will can have the greatest impact. His words will make the difference and attract money and human capital,” Won said.

KPBMA’s goals this year include increasing efficiency of new drug development, accelerating global market entry, maximizing job creation, and enhancing Korean people’s trust in the pharmaceutical industry.

To make new drug development more efficient, the group will establish an artificial intelligence new drug development center, jointly with the Ministry of Health and Welfare, and the Korea Health Industry Development Institute. It will set up a separate business entity to support small- and medium-sized enterprises’ new drug development.

To achieve a breakthrough in the global market penetration, KPBMA will launch a working group of scholars, industry officials, researchers, hospital officials, and government officials to support exports of biopharmaceutical products, Korean drugs, incrementally modified drugs (IMD), and excellent generic drugs.

The group also vowed to make efforts to help pharmaceuticals enter the Commonwealth of Independent States, Eurasia, and ASEAN. Through channels between governments, KPBMA will also support exports, easing non-tariff barriers, and creating a favorable investment environment.

The industry group also pledged to maximize job creation. KPMA is soon to announce member companies’ recruitment plans and hold job fairs in the pharmaceutical sector regularly.

“If a company develops a drug with 7 trillion won sales potential, it will create 40,000 jobs. If Korea becomes a pharmaceutical power, the economy can add 170,000 jobs in the sector, and 300,000 jobs in related sectors,” Won said.

KPBMA also hopes to reinforce the public’s trust in the pharmaceutical sector.

Among KPBMA members, 15 companies are ISO37001 certified. Within the next 18 months, 50 members hope to receive the certification.

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