Interview September 2013

Philippe Fauchet

President and representative director, GlaxoSmithKline K.K.

Fauchet: Regulatory hurdles still exist in Japan.

What services or products does your firm provide here?
Throughout our long history, GlaxoSmithKline K.K. (GSK Japan) has contributed to the health and quality of life of the Japanese people with an extensive list of products and services.

We are active in prescription pharmaceuticals, vaccines and consumer healthcare products. We are among the top 10 pharmaceuticals firms domestically, and have also acquired numerous pharmaceutical product approvals. At GSK Japan we take pride in being a key player in the Japanese healthcare market.

Who are your main competitors?
Over the last 10 years, we have been one of the fastest-growing companies in the pharma industry in Japan, which shows that we are quite competitive.

But, as each pharmaceutical company has different products in individual therapeutic areas, we are not in the habit of comparing ourselves with other makers.

Rather, our objective is to concentrate on unmet medical needs and provide innovative solutions for patients. Our raison d’être is research and development, and innovation for healthcare.

Why did your firm decide to invest in Japan?

GSK’s legacy firms have been doing business here for 50 years. As Japan is the second-largest pharmaceutical market in the world, it is natural for global pharma firms to invest in the country.

In addition, Japan has a stable, innovation-driven market, due to its universal healthcare system and cost-efficient, first-class medical services.

What challenges are you facing here?
One of the biggest challenges in recent years has been obtaining Japanese approval for our vaccines. Traditionally, the local market for vaccines has been quite closed to imports.

Many regulatory challenges needed to be cleared during the development process. The culture [of prevention] is not yet deeply rooted in this country, as various reports attest.

How have your firm’s operations changed since being in Japan?
We are more sophisticated and much larger than we were half a century ago. We now deal in many areas and offer a wide range of products, which allows us to deliver innovative health solutions to the Japanese population.

What do you believe is the greatest asset British firms have to offer the Japanese?
Projects conducted on an international scale can be utilised to best fit the market conditions of each country.

For example, GSK has one of the most fruitful development pipelines in the world, so we can select and develop the projects that will most contribute to the people of Japan.

A recent industry trend is conducting international clinical trials to realise simultaneous global development. Such programmes may give Japanese patients access to the newest cures without delay.

What is the greatest benefit to Japanese firms of working with British entities?
Global firms such as ours have ample experience working in various markets, including those outside the US and Europe. Thus Japanese firms that collaborate with such global entities can acquire invaluable information and know-how regarding other markets.

This should also apply to other industries. Japanese firms can learn from the experiences of British firms that conduct business in Commonwealth countries and deal with many different cultures.

The UK often serves as a reference for other nations in the fields of academic, healthcare and science and discovery. We at GSK are a good partner for those wishing to interact with our home country.

How do you think foreign and Japanese firms can benefit from each other?
If Japan focuses on its role as a major economic power, this will contribute to creating more business cooperation opportunities for both sides.

What are the biggest opportunities now for foreign firms in Japan?
The perspective offered by market dynamism, influenced by new measures recently implemented by authorities, should create space for innovation. Areas for development might include robotics, scientific fields, or services and products for the ageing population.

What changes would you like to see in your sector to improve UK–Japan ties?
Most important are the unification of regulatory requirements for pharmaceutical product and vaccine approvals globally, and successful progress of the EU–Japan negotiations for an Economic Partnership Agreement. These changes would benefit both nations.