New drugs help boost Bayer's sales in Asia-Pacific
The Straits Times
By Salma Khalik
NEW drugs, including one for an eye disease which is the major cause of blindness in the elderly, has made Bayer HealthCare Pharmaceuticals the Asia-Pacific region's top growing pharmaceutical firm.
Sales of its drugs in the region grew 15 per cent to $5.3 billion last year.
Global health intelligence service IMS Health put it 14th in worldwide sales last year, with the company registering an 8.3 per cent increase to hit $22 billion.
Its success stems largely from several new drugs of which perhaps the most successful is Eylea for wet age-related macular degeneration (AMD). It is caused by the growth of fragile blood vessels, which leak blood and fluid, damaging the part of the eye responsible for central vision.
One in four people over 60 suffers from AMD, though the majority have the milder, dry form.
There are other drugs for the ailment.
But Eylea, which was approved for use in Singapore at the end of last year, requires fewer visits to the doctor - just once every two months for an injection.
That could be a reason for its popularity, said Mr Jiang Wei, regional head for Singapore-based Bayer HealthCare Pharmaceuticals for the Asia-Pacific.
Eylea made history in Australia as its best-ever drug launch there.
In the first seven months, sales topped $108 million, resulting in a 39 per cent growth for Bayer in Australia.
Professor Wong Tien Yin, deputy medical director for research at the Singapore National Eye Centre (SNEC), said the effects of Eylea last longer than those of competitor Lucentis, but that the centre has currently "no preferred choice".
Mr Jiang predicts continued strong growth for Bayer, given its pipeline of new drugs coming onto the market.
A drug for late-stage prostate cancer was given fast-track approval here - less than a year after it got the green light in the United States - and will be launched in Singapore next month.
Called Xofigo, it attacks cancer cells which have spread to the bone, and both prolongs survival and reduces pain.
It is not the primary drug for the cancer, but supplements other treatment.
Prostate is the third most common cancer here for men, and most are discovered at a late stage because of few early signs.
Since it was approved, foreign patients have approached doctors here for the treatment, said a company spokesman.
Said Mr Jiang: "Our newly introduced products have been well received, largely because they cater to a rapidly ageing population in the Asia-Pacific and serve a huge unmet market need."
Dr Foo Chuan Kit, Bayer's head for Global Medical Affairs, said the company has 44 drugs in clinical trials.
One in three patients in the trials is Asian, reflecting Bayer's strong belief in this market.
It is doing first-in-humans trials for two stomach cancer drugs in Singapore, with the National Cancer Centre and the National University Health System.
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