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Asian Patients (Finally) Have Medicines Designed for Them

  • Asia’s health-care sales seen climbing to $517 billion in 2018
  • More companies focus on Asian patients as incomes rise
A researcher looks for a parasite that causes liver cancer in a urine sample at Khon Kaen University in Thailand.
A researcher looks for a parasite that causes liver cancer in a urine sample at Khon Kaen University in Thailand.Photographer: Lillian Suwanrumpha/Bloomberg
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For decades, much of the pipeline of medical innovation has flowed from West to East. Now a string of companies are attempting to upend that trend with new drugs and products tailored to Asian bodies and lifestyles.

There’s the Singapore-based drugmaker tackling an obscure cancer that’s rare in the West but common in Asia, where it’s been linked to a popular fish dish. Med-tech startups are preparing to sell tests to detect tumors more accurately in Asian women with denser breast tissue, including one wearable device that slips into a bra. Even Big Pharma firms like AstraZeneca Plc and Roche Holding AG now have drugs targeting a lung cancer-causing mutation most often found in women from East Asia.