Governments, health officials and companies operating in the health sector are facing a series of policy-related opportunities and risks in Southeast Asia. Decisions they make will influence the state of health care across the region and hopefully create the foundation for continued progress. There are four policy areas that require attention: investment, speed, innovation and choices.


Patients want fast access to the latest medicines. If new treatments and cures are not available in a timely manner, patients can’t benefit from them quickly. Sometimes that can mean the difference between life and death.

Across the region, administrative and regulatory delays are limiting options for patients. In Malaysia and Thailand, for example, burdensome requirements for submission of additional data as part of the drug approval process can significantly delay registration of new products in the market. In Thailand, the average time to obtain a patent is 5-8 years. In Vietnam, the average wait for final patent adjudication is nearly five years. If the process drags on, patent owners will have increasing difficulty enforcing their rights while infringement continues.

For example, in 2015, the average biopharmaceutical patent granted by Thailand’s patent office was 16 years old from the date of application. During that same year, Thailand granted patents to over 16 inventions with less than a year of patent term left; meaning all such patents were pending for over 19 years.

While some countries in Southeast Asia including Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand have developed frameworks for cooperation and pathways for faster regulatory approvals, the median review time remains long. In Indonesia, for example, from 2015 to 2017 the median review time was nearly three years.

These unnecessary delays can slow access to the latest treatments. If new medicines are not available in a timely manner, patients can’t benefit from them quickly. Sometimes, that can make all the difference for health and well-being.