Takeda Pharmaceuticals’ Emerging Markets Business Unit is headquartered in Singapore and operates across almost 40 countries, spanning five geographic Areas: Asia Pacific, CIS, Greater China, Latin America and Near East, Middle East, Africa (NEMEA).
At the centre of the Emerging Markets business, sits a broad range of established, high-quality medicines, which they call Value Brands. These products have proven efficacy and safety profiles and are trusted by doctors and patients across Emerging Markets. In addition to these well-established medicines, Takeda is launching a pipeline of innovative, new medicines to treat patients with life-threatening and debilitating diseases. These are mainly in the therapy areas of Oncology, Gastroenterology, and Cardiovascular & Metabolic.
Their R&D efforts are now focused on three core therapy areas of Oncology, Gastrointestinal, Central Nervous System along with Specialty Cardiovascular and Vaccines.
APBN had the opportunity to speak to Mr. Giles Platford who is the President of Emerging Markets HQ, based in Singapore.
1. Based on your years of experience in the pharmaceutical industry, how would you define “Emerging Markets”?
Emerging Markets is set to represent 85% of the total world population by 2025, and even more if you consider the future growth, with the population set to increase by 2 billion people in the next 35 years. When you look at large parts of the emerging markets like Asia and Africa, they not only have growing populations, but a burgeoning middle class, which means there is an increasing demand for quality healthcare services and medicines. Furthermore, there is the increased prevalence of lifestyle-related, non-communicable diseases like diabetes and certain types of cancer.
At Takeda, our goal is to understand the diverse needs of patients in emerging markets and to tailor our strategy to meet their different needs. We have put in place, strong local capabilities to help get our medicines to the patients that need them, as patients are at the centre of everything we do.
Takeda provides to those patients, a broad range of established, high-quality medicines, that we call Value Brands. These products have proven efficacy and safety profiles and continue to be trusted by doctors and patients across emerging markets. For example, Pantoprazole Sodium, a gastroenterology treatment, launched in the 1990’s is still growing in Brazil, Russia and China – three of our largest markets.
Across the emerging markets, we are also registering and launching a pipeline of innovative medicines to treat patients with life-threatening and debilitating diseases in the areas of oncology, cardiovascular and metabolic, and gastroenterology. Adcetris, an oncological treatment, recently launched in over 20 countries in emerging markets, and Entyvio, for IBD, is now filed for approval in over half of our emerging market countries.
2. What are the key functions and responsibilities of your teams in Takeda in Singapore?
We currently have 37 legal operations in Emerging Markets, spanning; Asia Pacific, CIS, Greater China, Latin America and Near East, Middle East, Africa (NEMEA). Local teams in all these areas are predominantly responsible for making sure that our medicines are delivered to patients in need.
The Singapore office is divided into four different entities from across our business: the headquarters of Emerging Markets Business Unit, plus the headquarters of its sub Area Asia Pacific, The Takeda Development Centre (part of R&D) plus the Vaccines Business Unit.
We hire both highly skilled local and overseas talent to ensure we are best placed to put patients at the centre of everything we do.
3. As the President of Takeda’s Emerging Markets Business Unit, what are the opportunities or challenges you see for Takeda’s business in Singapore and in the Asia Pacific region?
Asia Pacific is a great proxy for Emerging Markets. That is one of the reasons why we chose Singapore as the site for our headquarters. Talent from here, who are able to successfully manage in the context of Asia Pacific, can replicate best practice on an Emerging Markets level.
One of the key challenges for us in Asia Pacific is to establish meaningful partnerships with governments and local associations to make our medicines accessible to patients who need them. For example, the strategies and mechanisms we apply in the Philippines would be different to what we implement in Korea or Singapore. The regulatory requirements differ in countries within the region.
Another major challenge in this region is the access to quality medicines. Our goal is to make sure our medicines are available and make a difference to patients. Given the level of development of local healthcare systems and infrastructure differing significantly across Asia Pacific, we spend a lot of our time focusing on how we can partner, collaborate, and work with government and local partners to ensure our drugs are ultimately accessible to patients. There are many factors around education, diagnosis capabilities and infrastructure development which affect what we do.
4. Could you share about the current development of medicines/vaccines in Takeda to counter the prevalent global health issues?
We have a robust research and development pipeline on the pharma front with a strong focus on oncology and gastroenterology. We are in the process of launching a number of new drugs in oncology, such as Ninlaro which is recently approved for treatment of adult patients with relapsed or refractory Hodgkin Lymphoma and Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma (ALCL).
The R&D platform continues to develop meaningful, innovative medicines as well as a vaccine development platform where huge progress is being made to combat both dengue and norovirus. We have also established an internal team to potentially collaborate with external partners, with a view to addressing diseases such as Zika.
5. As emerging markets tend to be unstable and unpredictable (such as fluctuating currencies like Chinese Yuan & lower demand in Brazil), what kind of impact do they have for the decision-making in Takeda?
In the long term, we foresee positive future prospects in the emerging markets, largely down to our portfolio of trusted brands and our launch of innovative life-saving medicines. There are some cyclical trends and pressures that we face as a company which force us to make challenging but important investment decisions. This is the process we have to navigate through, however, first and foremost, we are committed to continue our efforts to meet the needs of patients in emerging markets in the long term.
As the demand for quality healthcare services increases, it is important for Takeda to enhance our access efforts to cater to their healthcare needs. We have some bold plans in place to achieve that in the future, which include our innovative life-saving medicines.
6. Seeing the opportunity in the increasing demand for value-brand products and novelty drugs, what are the strategies adopted to deal with it? Also, what are the marketing strategies when facing competitions from branded generics?
Universally, we identify and differentiate ourselves based on our core values and the principle of ‘Takeda-ism’. And it doesn’t matter whether you are selling a primary care product, value-brand or specialty care medicine, we hold our employees to the highest standards – as integrity is core to Takeda’s DNA. The way we operate and prioritise across our dynamic portfolio is to put patients first. Our focus is to strengthen the reputation of the company, build trust with society and in the process, support and sustain our work in healthcare with altruism.
Another point of differentiation is the quality of our medicines. Our healthcare solutions have been trusted by doctors and patients for years, with many of our Value Brand products being available for the last 20 years. Doctors believe in the safety, quality and efficacy of those products. This is something that our team is always proud of. Reinforcing the trust in us and our products is a core part of our approach.