Singapore gets shot in the arm from global drug demand

SINGAPORE (AFP) – Scientists in protective clothing work in a high-tech laboratory at a pharmaceutical plant in Singapore, whose coronavirus-hit economy has received a shot in the arm from robust global drug demand.

The city-state is on course for its worst ever recession this year but factory activity has held up, thanks partly to countries rushing to stockpile medicines during the pandemic.

The nation has become a centre for drug makers and is home to more than 50 factories, owned by big players including Pfizer, Roche, GlaxoSmithKline and Takeda.

Singapore’s drug sector “plays an important role in the global pharmaceutical industry supply chain”, Asia Pacific Chief Economist Rajiv Biswas at consultancy IHS Markit, told AFP. And in 2020, “governments and private-sector firms have been building up inventories of critical drugs as a result of the severe supply chain disruptions in many countries during the pandemic”, he added.

Data highlights the benefits for the trading hub – biomedical manufacturing, which covers pharmaceuticals, has grown strongly, with output expanding 90 per cent on-year in September alone. Exports also defied expectations of a collapse and posted growth most of the year, helped by drug shipments, although they slipped back in October and November.

Biochemists work inside a buffer preparation room at Takeda Pharmaceuticals (Asia Pacific) in Singapore. PHOTO: AFP