The Board of Investments (BOI) is eyeing some Japanese pharmaceutical manufacturers to look at the Philippines as a viable location for their expansion and exports to ASEAN countries.
BOI Managing Head Ceferino Rodolfo, who is also undersecretary of the Department of Trade and Industry, made the strong pitch during the recent Philippine Pharmaceutical Industry Updates for Japan Webinar, organized by BOI and the Foreign Trade Service Corps together with the Kansai Pharmaceutical Industries Association (KPIA).
“As we work to Build Back a Better Philippines, we recognize the importance of our international partners like Japan. With the developments in health insurance schemes, health systems, and increasing investments in public health, the Philippines can serve as Japan’s market for pharmaceutical products,” said Rodolfo. The Philippine pharmaceutical market has an estimated value of about $4.6 billion.
On top of that, he said, as the Philippines prepares the local environment and standards through the implementation of ASEAN harmonization and other initiatives for Good Manufacturing Practice, the country can be a good production base for Japanese companies’ pharmaceutical exports.
Philippines, being the closest ASEAN country in terms of geographical proximity, can become a competitive manufacturing base for Japanese pharmaceutical companies.
The online event, which was also supported by the Philippine Consulate General in Osaka and the Japan Pharmaceuticals Manufacturers Association (JPMA), managed to attract more than 250 Japanese companies engaged not only in the pharmaceutical industry but also in related industries such as medical devices and participants from the academe.
“The number of participants to this webinar shows that there is great interest in the Philippine pharmaceutical market. We have learned that the Philippine government is making huge efforts in promoting the industry and improving the access of Filipino people to pharmaceutical products. We believe that your country is an attractive business destination and we hope that more Japanese pharmaceutical companies will operate in the Philippines. We also wish to deepen our cooperation for this industry,” Takashi Kunieda, KPIA Director-General, said during the event.
The huge local market has also around 46 manufacturers, 650 importers, and 4,800 distributors with around 98 percent of active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) sourced from abroad as imports have grown by 15 percent between 2015 to 2019.
Rodolfo echoed that it is imperative to strengthen the partnership with Japan particularly in the pharmaceutical sector, including in the areas of R&D, product development, and innovation.
“In general, our local pharmaceutical companies have capabilities for basic research, formulation development, clinical studies and trials, and pilot-scale production up to commercial production. We are capable of manufacturing oral solid dosages, liquid oral preparations, liquids and semi-solids topical preparations, small and big volume parenteral, and dry powder inhalers and effervescent,” BOI-Manufacturing Industries Service Director Evariste Cagatan stated.
Cagatan noted that investment in the manufacture of vaccines and biologicals is one of the priorities of the Philippine government to be able to achieve a certain level of security to address current and future health emergencies and pandemics.
“We would welcome investments in vaccine manufacturing even starting only with fill and finish or form and finish operations before going to further processing. We have prospective Filipino groups which are looking for technical partners or equity partners who would be happy to be introduced to those who are seriously interested in this field. We are also encouraging investments in essential medicines especially for the most common illnesses of Filipinos which include diabetes, hypertension, kidney and heart diseases, and cancer,” she added.
Director Jesusa Joyce Cirunay of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) presented updates on the regulatory process of the agency related to health products.
According to Cirunay, during the pandemic, the FDA has made several regulatory actions such as releasing advisories and orders that would ensure access to drugs, test kits, and PPEs; conducting continuous public information dissemination; granting Compassionate Special Permit (CSP); adopting a collaborative procedure for the accelerated registration of WHO – Prequalified Pharmaceutical Products and Vaccines; establishing Facilitated Registration Pathways for drug products, including vaccines and biologicals; creating guidelines for the registration of drug products under emergency use (DEU) for COVID-19; and processing clinical trial and product registration at a shorter time.
For hospitals or doctors who would like to use an unregistered drug to their patients based on risk-benefit ratio, a CSP may now be issued by the FDA within 3 working days for emergency use of identified individuals or institutions. As for DEU, it takes 30 days to get an FDA nod whereas Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) takes around three weeks and has limited validity for unregistered products or vaccines that are still in the clinical trial stage (phase 3 interim).
Japan is the country’s 2nd top export market for pharmaceutical products in 2019, specifically bandages and dressings. On the other hand, the top imports from Japan in the same year include medicaments and penicillin, nucleic acids and salts, and vitamins. Since 2015, exports to Japan grew by 18.24 percent while imports increased by 8.22 percent. BOI and PTICs in Japan conducted a similar activity in February 2021 which focused on the manufacturing of PPE, hygiene products, and medical supplies. More industry-focused webinars and roundtable meetings are proposed to be conducted until the end of the year particularly for trading companies and manufacturing of business machines, electronics, and medical devices.
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