Noting that may Asia-Pacific populations are getting older at "unprecedented rates", Pfizer is changing its approach to "healthy and active ageing" in the region.

The drugs giant has outlined its plans in this area at the First World Congress on Healthy Ageing in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Theresa Firestone, head of Asia - emerging markets for Pfizer, said that "we are seeing an explosion of older populations in Asia and need to adapt our strategies to address this worrying trend. This is a phenomenon we cannot ignore".

Pfizer cites the case of Singapore, where the over-60s will nearly quadruple, increasing by nearly 450% between 2000 and 2050 to account for a full 38% of its overall population. In Vietnam and China, the increases in percentages will be similar. Given this scenario, the firm says its approach to healthy and active ageing "will focus on two critical areas aimed at enhancing productivity and economic sustainability as developing Asian societies age".

These involve the promotion of healthy lifestyles to combat non-communicable disease and the "creation of new care models at all stages of life". Pfizer says that with increasingly ageing populations, "healthcare systems must reinvent what it means to provide care", adding that governments, care providers and businesses need to team up to explore new methods of  tackling communicable diseases "through such tools as immunisation programmes to take advantage of innovations in treatment".

Pfizer goes on to say that "to achieve economic sustainability, the presumption that old age is more or less synonymous with dependency and disability must become obsolete", claiming that "global policies to support older generations created in the 20th century are not fit for the 21st-century demographic transformation". The company adds that without healthy ageing models, "rising health challenges will lead to a potential fiscal nightmare".

In a statement prepared ahead of the Kuala Lumpur meeting, Pfizer notes that "as Asian developing nations have catapulted themselves to the forefront of global competition, they have enjoyed a 'demographic dividend'." Their population has been "young, robust, and productive" while nations in Europe, North America and northern Asia have aged and slowed down but now, "the region’s youth is vanishing".

It cites a recent Economist article, which notes that there hasn’t been such a fall in workers “since the Black Death", and "the unprecedented ageing that we are already seeing in Japan and Korea is beginning to spread south, through China, and into south and southeast Asia". Pfizer argues that "western and developed nations are preparing for the demographic transformation, and it is essential that developing nations in Asia don’t fall behind".