Novartis seeks to further tap into Chinese healthcare market

Novartis CEO Vas Narasimhan indicated that the drugmaker aims to boost its presence in China by launching new products in the country and enhancing collaborations with local biotechnology and technology firms to advance the digital transformation of healthcare, China Daily reported Tuesday. The executive predicted that China will "become one of the top three markets for Novartis by sales in the coming years."

In March 2018, Narasimhan disclosed that Novartis aimed to more than double its sales in China over the next five years after the country took efforts to reduce drug approval times. "Now China's regulatory timelines are at the same level of what we see in the US or in Europe," he stated.

The executive, who noted that Chinese regulators have approved nine new Novartis drugs over the last two years, indicated that the company hopes to introduce more than 10 innovative products in the country in the coming years. "China's strategy of opening up to our industry and opening up to innovation will benefit Chinese patients and also enable companies like us to keep investing in China," Narasimhan explained.

Further, he said Novartis is also engaging with Chinese regulators and local partners to bring cell and gene therapies to the country. The Swiss drugmaker entered into a deal with Cellular Biomedicine last September focused on the manufacture and supply of the CAR-T cell therapy Kymriah (tisagenlecleucel) in China. "I believe our collaboration with Chinese partners can help China become the leader among the emerging markets in bringing cell and gene therapies to countries," the CEO remarked.

Meanwhile, Novartis recently expanded its partnership with Chinese internet-based technology firm Tencent to apply integrated big data, artificial intelligence and social platforms to improve patient outcomes in chronic diseases. Under the initial deal reached in September 2018, Novartis gained access to Tencent's various health services, including patient reminders to take their treatments and information about their conditions.

"We began the partnership with Tencent in cardiovascular diseases to help identify patients who need care and help patients stay on the right medicine," commented Narasimhan. "Now we are expanding the collaboration to cover all the chronic diseases," he said, adding "this is one of our most advanced partnerships in the world and a model for the rest."

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