[VIEWPOINT]Drug industry needs researchIt has been a thrill to be able to witness the World Cup, an absolutely exciting performance by the Korean national soccer team and the heartwarming support of the Korean people. Korea can be proud of a world class soccer team. Nowhere else in the world will you find such enthusiastic support, but without the violence and destruction witnessed in other countries. Korea also has many world class industries. Korea is a world leader in ships, cars, steel, semiconductors and now soccer and soccer fans. There is one industry, however, that is falling behind and perhaps it is time to begin to take action to remedy this situation. Taking corrective action to make this industry world class will improve export performance, increase GDP growth and have a positive impact on the health of the nation.
Korea is the 12th largest pharmaceutical market in the world, in terms of consumption. Notwithstanding the level of consumption in Korea, the discovery of new pharmaceuticals is dominated by Switzerland, Germany, France, England and the United States. Korea could very easily become one of the leading nations involved in the research and development of new pharmaceuticals.
Korean researchers can compete with those of other nations. The Korean pharmaceutical industry is capable of developing a research-based industry with the cooperation of universities and research institutes and perhaps now is the time to begin to develop the policies needed to accomplish this important task.
With a research-based industry, Koreans would gain a new and valuable source of exports, and there would be a significant positive impact on GDP growth and the health and quality of life of Koreans would improve. Developing this industry would also have important spinoff effects on other industries as well as promoting significant and important cooperation between industry and academia.
Important and difficult steps have already been taken to promote the research industry, such as the separation of the writing of prescriptions and dispensing of pharmaceuticals, a very important step in the process of building a research-based industry. The Korean government must modify the insurance reimbursement system to provide the economic incentives for industry to develop new drugs. Koreans pay some of the highest prices in the world for generic drugs, but some of the lowest in the world for newly developed drugs.
This reimbursement policy makes it impossible for domestic drug companies to develop new compounds and forces them to remain in the business of simply copying what others have already created. In addition, this policy prevents consumers in Korea from gaining access to the latest developments in treatment.
Koreans have proved in the World Cup that nothing is impossible. They have learned that with the right leadership and the correct policies and strategies from that leadership, Koreans can accomplish anything. A research-based pharmaceutical industry is no different.
The writer is the president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Korea.
by Jeffrey Jones