Among the ‘first world’ chronic diseases reaching epidemic proportions in China, diabetes is particularly alarming. With 113.9 million diabetics, China has one third of the world’s total, according to a study recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).
JAMA also suggested that only over 30 per cent of current sufferers are aware of the state of their condition.
For healthcare companies, these statistics present huge opportunities. But significant challenges must be addressed before the full potential of this booming market can be realized.
Part of the problem is that China’s pharmaceutical market is crowded. Several of the world’s large diabetes players have already been in the country for several years and offer a wide range of competing products. With the government also emphasizing treatment options as a means of reducing the vast number of patients, healthcare providers, professionals and patients are overloaded with information – not all of it as patient-focused as it could be.
While there is a huge need for education, it is important for pharmaceuticals to consider specific demographics and channels to target for different stages of the product’s life cycle. This is not limited to patients – access to treatment knowledge, best practices and equipment can differ among healthcare professionals across different cities.
Drug manufacturers also face the challenge of legal restrictions around communicating directly with patients. This has enhanced the role of the media, including digital media, in conveying product and disease information, in turn elevating the importance of effective communication in educating stakeholders.
Digital channels are increasingly being leveraged in China’s healthcare sector for a range of purposes. Social media in particular offers vast potential for healthcare companies; with over 625 million active Chinese users. Yet despite the opportunities for patient education, this medium remains absent from the communication strategies of most healthcare companies operating in China. Government regulations and internal processes remain significant barriers, but with the rest of the world already deep into the digital age, it’s only a matter of time before healthcare companies are forced to either join the conversation or get left behind.
Stephanie Yu is Senior Vice President at Weber Shandwick Healthcare Practice (and dna Communications, a division of Weber Shandwick)
Click to read the full article published in Pharmaceutical Market Europe magazine