HEALTHCARE | Staff Reporter, Singapore

Singapore sees a 174% surge in pharma exports

The increase occurred mainly due to the worldwide stockpiling of drug ingredients.

The pharmaceutical export has seen a 174% surge in April whilst the output saw an 86% spike, a Fitch Solutions report has revealed. As such, the industry is becoming an increasingly important component for the country’s manufacturing sector, the report said.

Despite the decrease in employment in the manufacturing sector, the number of people working for pharmaceutical companies has increased, according to the Economic Development Board.

Similarly, whilst the value of fixed asset investments has decreased for most industries, a total of $323m was spent by pharmaceutical companies in 2017, up from $197m $145m in 2012. The country has more than 50 pharmaceutical manufacturing facilities, including plants owned by eight of the world’s 10 biggest pharmaceutical firms.

In 2019, the city state exported medicine with a value of $8.1b and the total import value was $3.1b. The positive trade balance may continue further as ‘companies and governments around the world are building large inventories of active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) and drugs to ensure supplies of medicines remain uninterrupted and can be made close to market’, according to How Ti Hwei, president of the Singapore Association of Pharmaceutical Industries.

The United States, Europe, and Japan were Singapore’s biggest export destinations for APIs in recent months. Pfizer stated that it had witnessed a tremendous increase in demand for anti-infectives which it produces in Singapore and elsewhere.

Pharmaceutical production and exports will be a boon for Singapore’s overall manufacturing and trade environment. Its biomedical industry, which employs more than 24,000 people, accounted for about 20% of the manufacturing sector in 2019 which in turn accounted for about a fifth of GDP.

The report also confirmed that development of innovative pharmaceuticals is a long-term ambition of the Singapore government.

In June last year, the Experimental Drug Development Centre (EDDC) was established as a result of the integration of A*STAR drug discovery and development units, namely, the Experimental Therapeutics Centre (ETC), Drug, Discovery and Development (D3), and Experimental Biotherapeutics Centre (EBC). It is hoped that EDDC can better coordinate public-private partnerships in Singapore’s drug development ecosystem, and allow industry partners greater ability to translate discoveries into new medicines.

A*STAR was founded nearly 40 years ago with the goal of supporting R&D to deliver a competitive advantage for Singapore’s economy, the report further added.

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