Ophthalmology is defined by Merriam-Webster as the branch of medicine dealing with the structure, function and diseases of the mind. As of 2018, China had more than 30,000 practicing ophthalmologists in more than 2,700 ophthalmic centers, according to MedTech Intelligence, as well as 121 specialty hospitals and 11 institutes for eye disease prevention. However, the need for ophthalmic intervention remains huge. This need is largely due to China’s large ageing population and rising diabetes as lifestyles change.
While there’s a lot of support from China’s National Health and Family Planning Commission (NHFPC) and ophthalmology research centers such as the Zhongshan Ophthalmic Center (ZOC) at Sun Yat-Sen University in Guangzhou, wide discrepancies remain in the level of care provided by local clinics and urban centers remain, with advanced treatment skewed toward Class III hospitals in those urban areas. In order to seek better care or a second or third opinion, patients from nearby rural areas will go to these large hospitals, resulting in 30% to 50% of inpatients and sometimes leading to overcrowding.
Current Market Performance for Ophthalmic Devices and Medicine
The current market for ophthalmic devices in China has about 90 companies competing within it as estimated by Market Scope, with the majority of the market being dominated by nine companies: Alcon, Allergan, Genentech/Roche, Carl Zeiss Meditech, Bausch + Lomb, Abbott, Chengdu Kanghong Pharmaceutical Co., Santen, and Topcon. In 2016, retinal products were the largest ophthalmic revenue market in China while the second-largest submarket, glaucoma, is largely a pharmaceutical one. According to Eyewire, China is also the world’s largest market for laser vision correction due to increases in the prevalence of myopia, even though it’s not usually covered by health insurance.
Areas of Growth in Ophthalmic Devices and Medicine: What China Needs
There is a lot of potential growth for ophthalmology remaining in China. Market Scope put out a forecast in 2018 that China’s US$2.6 billion ophthalmic device and drugs market would grow at a compound annual rate of 8.5% to US$4 billion. According to the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness, refractive error and cataracts are the main causes of vision loss in China. In fact, about 6.6 million people who are blind live in China–about one-third of the world’s population of the blind–with 70-80% of those persons living in generally underserved rural areas. MedTech Intelligence states that about half of China’s cases of blindness are caused by cataracts, though glaucoma and retinal disease are on the rise as well. Cataract operations performed per million population rose from 370 in 2000 to 2,205 in 2017. The number is projected to increase further. Typically, insurance in China will cover between 70% and 80% of cataract surgical expenses in China.
Image source: Wesley Tingey on Unsplash
How to Find Investors and Partners in China for your Ophthalmology Company
For those who want to expand their company’s ophthalmology operations into the China market, finding investors and partners can be difficult without assistance. In order to ease the process, a safe bet is to find a company familiar with Chinese standards that can bridge the gap between the markets, such as MyBioGate. Other possibilities are to attend medical technology and research conferences that are hosted in China. Due to COVID-19, virtual attendance is now possible for some of these conferences as they are being held online for the first time this year.
Keys to a Successful Launch in China
Success in China for a foreign company can sometimes be a challence, especially when there are language and cultural barriers to cross. In order to have a successful launch in China, we advise using services that can help you through the application processes. Then you can establish a foothold in China. These services also include proper Chinese translations of your company’s research and marketing materials.
MyBioGate is Here to Help you Succeed in China
MyBioGate is a cross-border healthcare consulting firm for biotech and medtech companies based in Houston, Texas. A goal is to help connect companies with ambitions to land in the Chinese market with investors and leaders in Chinese pharma industry. In so doing, we can help your ophthalmic device or ophthalmic drugs research or production company establish a foothold in the China ophthalmology market.
“China: Situation in Brief.” The International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness, https://www.iapb.org/iapb-regions/western-pacific/china/
Gross, Ames. “China’s Ophthalmology Market: Challenges For Foreign Device Makers.” MedTech Intelligence, 5 Feb. 2018, https://www.medtechintelligence.com/column/chinas-ophthalmology-market-challenges-foreign-device-makers/
“Market Scope: China’s Ophthalmic Market Expected to Double by 2021.” Market Scope, 28 Mar. 2016, https://eyewire.news/articles/chinas-ophthalmic-market-expected-to-double-by-2021/