While Asia doesn’t always make the most sense strictly as a manufacturing center to serve global needs, the latest drumbeat of “Asia for Asia” continues to resonate. Thus, the many large medical device companies with pockets deep enough to pursue a global footprint are doing just that to be in the middle of where the action is going to be.
Along those lines, on April 24, some of the largest medical technology companies in the industry joined forces to form the Asia Pacific Medical Technology Association (APACMed). We’re all familiar with (if not, get to know them) U.S.-based trade groups such as the Advanced Medical Technology Association, the Medical Device Manufacturers Association and state-based groups such as the Massachusetts Medical Device Industry Council, LifeScience Alley in Minnesota, BioUtah or the Florida Medical Manufacturers Consortium. Of course, trade groups have played a role internationally for years, with groups such as Eucomed in Europe and MEDEC in Canada serving as long-time players in global medtech advocacy.
But this is a first for Asia.
Based in Singapore, APACMed, according to its newly named leadership, was created to “improve access to high-quality healthcare for patients by collaborating with governments, policy makers and other stakeholders to create innovative solutions and jointly shape the future of healthcare in the region.”
Member companies so far include industry heavyweights Abbott Laboratories Inc., Baxter International Inc., B. Braun, Becton Dickinson and Co., Boston Scientific Corp., Cardinal Health Inc., GE Healthcare, Johnson & Johnson, Medtronic plc, Philips Healthcare, Siemens Healthcare, Stryker Corp. and Zimmer Holdings Inc. APACMed was formed to address the unmet needs of two-thirds of the world’s population that resides in this region, officials for the organization said.
“Our aim is to represent the diverse group of innovative medical technology companies and industry associations in the Asia-Pacific region,” said Vladimir Makatsaria, chairman of APACMed and head of the medical device business in the Asia-Pacific region for Johnson & Johnson. “This is the first time we have combined our efforts to drive access, innovation and collaboration in order to benefit patients in Asia-Pacific. We welcome medical technology companies and associations with a similar vision to join us.”
The association will be involved in regulatory issues, ethical business standards and compliance, and will help promote innovation and talent development in the region. The group also will work for “sustainable development of products and services to address the unmet healthcare needs of the region,” officials noted.
“With the dynamic healthcare landscape, greater collaboration is needed to solve mutual healthcare challenges in innovative ways,” said James Lim Leong Ching, board member and president, greater Asia, for Becton Dickinson. “We want to make modern, innovative, and reliable technologies available to patients in Asia-Pacific.”
APACMed has appointed Fredrik Nyberg as CEO of the association, to work with the industry and its partners to demonstrate the value of innovation in medical technology, promote regulatory harmonization, encourage sustainability, and establish a code of ethics.
Nyberg is an expert on the medical device industry in Asia, having worked in the region for more than 25 years, most recently serving as senior director of consulting, Asia-Pacific, for Quintiles Consulting, one of the largest providers of biopharma and health-sciences development and commercial outsourcing services.
“I’m delighted to join APACMed as CEO,” said Nyberg. “As members of the global healthcare community, it is our responsibility to ensure patients have access to the most innovative, life-changing healthcare solutions. It is our hope that APACMed will be a unifying voice for the medical device and in-vitro diagnostics industries in Asia-Pacific.”
Nyberg recently took some time to chat with Medical Product Outsourcing about his new role, the nascent organization, and the group’s current and future plans.
MPO: How long has APACMed been in the planning stages? How many people do you have on staff and how do you plan to ramp up resources? Will you have any satellite offices outside of Singapore?
Nyberg: Our founding members began planning about one and a half to two years ago. Some had positive experience working with Eucomed and AdvaMed but realized that there was no similar regional association covering our very diverse and fragmented part of the world. The secretariat is currently very small—we will be less than half dozen [people on staff] by year’s end. This may grow to 15-20 full-time staff in three years. We are not ruling out satellite offices in other parts of Asia-Pacific in the future. But as we are extending our membership to national medical technology associations in the region such as the Medical Technology Association of Australia and NatHealth in India they, in effect, become our local partners on the ground in those territories. Although our staff is currently small, we have set up five very active functional committees that are led by some of the most senior executives in our member organizations. The five committees cover legal/ethics, regulatory affairs/quality assurance, government affairs & policy, communications, and medical/clinical affairs.
MPO: What do you see as the primary reasons that now was the right time to form APACMed?
Nyberg: Healthcare is at an inflection point in Asia-Pacific. Demand for quality healthcare is soaring driven by significant shifts in patient demographics—aging population, growing middle class, rising chronic disease burden. At the same time, supply is not meeting demand. Sixty percent of the world’s population resides in Asia-Pacific. The unmet healthcare needs of the majority of the population are vast. Hospital infrastructure build is not keeping up with demand; many countries have severe shortages of doctors; approval times for new therapies and technologies are getting longer and regulatory processes are still poorly harmonized across the region. The solution, as we see it, lies in innovation and collaboration—innovation in medical technologies that, for example, support an aging population at home without putting excessive strain on current hospital infrastructure or dramatically reduce the time patients remain in hospital after surgery, or that reduce hospital infections and improve patient safety. Collaboration occurs between patients, policymakers, payers, practitioners, healthcare institutions, as well as the industry. For example, in order to increase focus on prevention and early health screening, give patients access to new technologies; think holistically about healthcare costs, increase education and training of nurses and physicians, and working together for greater productivity and quality of care.
MPO: What has been the primary response from companies/Asia-Pacific countries?
Nyberg: The most common response is “what took you so long?” Everyone we talk to—from Western multinationals, to large Asian medtech players to SMEs (small and medium enterprises) and startups in the region—is very positive and supportive.
MPO: What do you see as your primary agenda from day one?
Nyberg: We have two immediate priorities. The first is to build visibility of the association, of the industry and of the benefits of medical technologies that are still often confused with pharmaceuticals in this part of the world. The second is to build credibility by driving specific initiatives such a regional code of conduct and engaging actively in regulatory and public policy issues in Asia-Pacific.
The association isn’t wasting any time. From Dec. 9-11, APACMed plans to host the first Asia Pacific Medical Technology Forum in Singapore. For more information, anyone interested in membership should contact the association at firstname.lastname@example.org.