Pharmaceutical and healthcare in Vietnam

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Mar 2012

ANT Consulting

Vietnam is a large and fast growing population, which is expected to reach 96 million by 2019, and it will continue to attract the interest of foreign players. Although the country’s regulatory environment will remain fairly challenging, the introduction of global standards for manufacturing and pharmacy distribution will improve the market value. Globally, Vietnam ranks 66th out of 83 countries surveyed in our ever-expanding pharmaceutical universe. Valued at US$1.54bn in 2009, it is expected the Vietnamese pharmaceutical market to post a five-year compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 16.03% in local currency terms (14.80% in US dollars), to reach a value of US$3.07bn in 2014. At over US$33 in 2014, spending per capita will have almost doubled in five years, with further growth expected through to 2019. Over the ten-year forecast period, overall market CAGR will slow somewhat (to 12.79% in local currency), due to a higher uptake of cheaper, domestically-produced medicines, patent expirations and likely measures to reduce consumption in government hospitals, as the government deals with budget deficits.

In common with many of its regional neighbors, the Vietnamese pharmaceutical market is underdeveloped and suffers from poor regulatory and intellectual property (IP) standards, which have held back foreign investment in the country. Low-cost, locally-produced generics – as well as counterfeit products – account for a sizeable proportion of drug consumption due to low consumer purchasing power and an under-funded healthcare system. Uneven and inadequate public insurance coverage means that patients are responsible for financing many of their medical needs, which in the past has hampered stronger market growth. Consequently, pharmaceutical consumption represents only 1.7% of Vietnam’s GDP, although we expect this figure to top 2% from 2014.
Moreover, membership of the WTO will serve to promote the development of Vietnam’s pharmaceutical sector as well as to reduce the role of counterfeit trade. The domestic industry, traditionally characterized by poor manufacturing standards and obsolete facilities, is likely to undergo a wave of consolidation in the face of rising pressure – and associated costs – on companies to implement international GMP standards. Additionally, WTO membership will have a positive effect on the sector as it encourages imports and foreign direct investment (FDI) and improves operational efficiency in what has traditionally been an overly bureaucratic and
less than dynamic industry.
Prescription medicines will remain dominant over the next five years, with the biggest focus on drugs for the treatment of infectious and chronic diseases. The over-the-counter (OTC) sector has the potential to be boosted by the re-categorisation of popular traditional medicines, although presently there are no such plans. In the meantime, market figures will remain distorted by the lack of a distinction made between prescription and OTC drugs, with most medicines available without a prescription.
Vietnamese drug makers account for only 40% of the total medicines market, while the country imports around 90% of the active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) used in drug production. However, capacity is improving gradually, and in Q409 the government announced its aim to ensure that 60% of domestic demand is met by local pharmaceutical companies during 2010. At the start of 2005, there were more than 10,000 kinds of medicines registered for sale in Vietnam, of which some 60% were produced locally. The figures represent a marked improvement on 1995 when the local sector produced only 80 substances, as well as on 2002, when 384 products were manufactured.
Vietnam’s pharmaceutical market was valued at around VND27,351bn (US$1.54bn) in 2009. Over the next five years, BMI forecasts that the market should grow at a CAGR of 16.0% in local currency terms to reach a value of VND57,515bn (US$3.07bn) in 2014. BMI’s long-range forecast is for the market to reach VND91,166bn (US$5.61bn) in 2019, equating to a CAGR of 12.8%.

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