HEALTHCARE | Staff Reporter, Singapore

Singapore's war on diabetes will continue to spur drugmaker investment

Novo Nordisk and Abbott are amongst the most active players in the market.

The Singapore government’s declared war on diabetes is forecasted to continue attracting multinational drugmaker investment on top of government incentives to curb the growing health problem, according to report by Fitch Solutions.

The Lion city remains plagued by a rising prevalence of diabetes amidst government-driven public awareness campaigns, with approximately 600,000 adults living with diabetes in 2017 which translates to a 13.7% prevalence according to data from the International Diabetes Foundation. This figure is forecasted to reach a prevalence of 16.3% by 2040.

According to the report, pharmaceutical and healthcare firms will benefit from the growing consumption of antidiabetic treatments as well as Singapore’s overall growing expenditure on healthcare.

Also read: Pharma firms win big as Singapore boosts public healthcare spending

Pharmaceutical firms such as Novo Nordisk and Abbott were found to be active players in Singapore’s diabetes market.

“In 2016, Janssen Pharmaceuticals formed a partnership with the country’s Ministry of Health (MOH) to study and identify lifestyle factors and biomarkers that make individuals more prone to developing diabetes,” Fitch Solutions noted in its report.

Likewise, pharmaceutical player Eli Lilly opened a research facility in Singapore in November to investigate new drugs for a range of diseases including diabetes, Alzheimer’s dementia and rheumatoid arthritis.

“The high affordability levels in Singapore compared to neighbouring markets places the country’s pharmaceutical market in an attractive position to drugmakers,” Fitch Solutions highlighted. “As the prevalence of diabetes increases in line with growing awareness amongst the population and increased efforts by the government, this will support a greater uptake of diabetes medicines over the long term.”

Singapore first declared its war on diabetes in 2016 in an effort to unite the country in creating a supportive environment to prevent the disease and promote proper management. The country’s Health Promotion Board launched initiatives to encourage the adoption of healthier meal options such as the ‘Eat, Drink, Shop Healthy’ Campaign.

Also read: Singapore investors plan to invest one third of wealth into healthcare

MOH also launched a free self-assessment survey called the diabetes risk assessment in 2017 to encourage Singaporeans aged 18 and above to be aware of their risk to developing the condition, the report added. Under the initiative, those below age 40 who are assessed to be at risk of diabetes become eligible to undergo a full screening of the disease for $3.6 (S$5).

A $20m investment to ramp up health promotion efforts through a food and exercise strategy was launched in conjunction with the assessment.

In November 2018, deputy prime minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam stated that government campaigns could not be won by health ministries alone.

“Instead, it had to be waged on multiple fronts, with employers, citizens and the whole government chipping in to fight a condition that not only compromises an individual’s quality of life but is also a huge drain on resources,” Fitch Solutions highlighted in its report. “As such, the food and beverage (F&B) sector has been persuaded to switch to healthier ingredients, with almost half the food stalls offering at least one healthier option.” 

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