Western firms form band of brothers, but welcome others, in Asian medical device association

Major Western device and medical technology firms launched Asia Pacific Medical Technology Association, or APACMed, pledging the association would unite a fragmented effort to work with regulators across a region that is both lucrative and frustrating on issues ranging from import rules to public tender guidelines.

The association includes Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ), Abbott ($ABT), GE Healthcare ($GE) and Boston Scientific ($BSX) with hopes for wide local firms to join too and will be based in Singapore with the wealth city state an increasingly attractive center for many firms to set up regional administration and distribution hubs.

In 2012, Singapore passed a set of new rules on medical device registration that drew immediate blowback from doctors, hospitals and companies in a lesson learned that led Malaysia to rein in its own new guidelines the following year.

In China, the government has worked hard to promote national champions at nearly every level of devices from high-end scanning and monitoring equipment to everyday hospital needs in an effort to control costs.

At the same time, an explosion in private hospitals across the region from India and Thailand to Malaysia, Singapore and Korea--seeking a boost in medical tourism--and the launch of universal healthcare in Indonesia in 2014 has made Asia one of the most lucrative markets for device firms.

"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 in a press release.

"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."

Speaking to the Wall Street Journal, APACMed CEO Fredrik Nyberg said that even though the the founding members are Western companies, there is an effort to get firms from Japan, South Korea, China and Singapore, as well as an Indian industry association.

He said one key focus is new regulations in China for medical device clinical trials that were issued last year.

"What we're seeing is we're at a bit of an inflection point in Asia Pacific in terms of healthcare," Nyberg told the Wall Street Journal.

- here's the release from APACMed
- and the story from the WSJ