Singapore pharma on recovery path after dismal 2017

  • Singapore’s pharmaceutical business, among the pillars of the city-state’s manufacturing sector, is set to return to strength in 2018 as big global drugmakers ramp up output and advance automation at their production sites across the country.
  • A recovery from a dismal 2017, which marked the sector’s worst contraction in two decades, would underpin Singapore’s economic growth.
  • The pharmaceutical sector is the No. 2 contributor to the country’s manufacturing output and accounts for 3% of its GDP.
  • The sector will see a “robust” 2018, Singapore’s Economic Development Board (EDB) told Reuters.
  • “The opening of new sites like AbbVie’s biologics manufacturing facility and the ramp-up of others, including Amgen and Novartis, reflect strong fundamentals… we expect the manufacturing activity to remain robust for 2018,” said Ms Ho Weng Si, director of biomedical sciences for EDB.
  • “Outlook for the industry as a whole remains positive for the next few years,” she added, citing the pace of new drug approvals by the US Food and Drug Administration that hit a 21-year high in 2017.
  • Singapore is well placed to benefit from this uptick in approvals as it hosts facilities of eight of the world’s top 10 drugmakers – such as Roche, GlaxoSmithKline, Pfizer and Sanofi.
  • Sanofi, which in Singapore mainly produces ingredients for blood-thinning drugs shipped globally, told Reuters it expects production “to be relatively stable to slightly increasing in coming years” as it invests to upgrade capacity.
  • A quarterly EDB survey of the manufacturing sector shows the pharmaceutical industry is the most optimistic about production over 1Q18, with a net weighted balance of 56% of firms expecting output to rise from 4Q17.
  • Data shows pharmaceutical production fell in Jan 18, albeit at a milder pace, and rose 15.2% y/y in Feb 18, bringing gains so far in 2018 to about 7%. Output shrank 15.6% in 2017, the largest annual contraction since at least 1993.
  • Singapore’s pharmaceutical output has risen more than threefold since the start of this century, with the sector generating USD17bn worth of products in 2017.
  • The outlook for recovery, however, is not free of headwinds. Pharmaceutical output is inherently volatile as production happens in batches, which can take anywhere from a few days to weeks to make.
  • But due to advancements in technology, industry players are hoping to achieve more consistent production levels.

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