Drugmakers in the Asia Pacific are "increasingly adapting their business models from the production of generic drugs towards more high-risk, high-return R&D," according to a new report.

The analysis, from Thomson Reuters unit  CMR International, notes a rise in clinical trial activity away from the USA, plus more patent challenges and molecular development in the region. In 2002, 53% of patients recruited globally for clinical trials were in North America and that number fell to 32% in 2008. Over the same period, Asia Pacific saw an increase from 6% to 11% over the same period, while Europe showed marginal growth from 14%-17%.

Meanwhile, the number of new molecules in development by generic companies, particularly in India, "reflects a strong inclination to invest in R&D", the report claims, while the number of patent challenges in the region "indicates an increasingly aggressive approach to securing market share". Patent challenges raised by Indian companies, for example, increased 60% from 2006 to 2009.

The 2010 Asia Pacific R&D Factbook also notes that when it comes to clinical development activities in the area, "location matters". Thailand is top for patient recruitment and quality, while Malaysia comes last, and Japan is best for regulatory performance while China is bottom.

Hans Poulsen, head of life sciences consulting at Thomson Reuters, said the benefits to Asia Pacific in moving towards increased clinical trials and more drug development are clear, "attracting more investment to the local pharma industry, and earlier access to innovative medicines for the local population". He added that "it is not clear however, if this trend will be seen as an opportunity for collaboration, or an increase in competition for multinational companies".