High growth potential in pharmaceutical industry

Vietnam’s pharmaceutical market has significant potential. The Health Ministry estimated the market at US$6.9bil (RM31bil) in 2021. — Bloomberg

HANOI: It is critical for pharmaceutical companies to improve competitiveness with a focus on research and development (R&D), production technology and digitalisation.

According to experts, this will help them expand their shares in the domestic market which remains dominated by imported drugs and extend their international reach.

Vietnam’s pharmaceutical market has significant potential. The Health Ministry estimated the market at US$6.9bil (RM31bil) in 2021 while BMI Research forecast the market to reach US$16.1bil (RM72bil) in 2026 with a compound growth rate of up to 11%.

According to Nguyen Dieu Ha, general secretary and office chief of the Vietnam Pharmaceutical Companies Association, there are 55 foreign-invested pharmaceutical companies in Vietnam as of the end of 2022, 228 companies meeting World Health Organisation – Good Manufacturing Practice and 12 meeting high good manufacturing practice (GMP) standards.

The figures show that the pharmaceutical industry of Vietnam has made a significant improvement since 2017 when there were only two companies meeting GMP. The domestic pharmaceutical market is a playground for foreign pharmaceutical companies. Ha pointed out that domestic drug production only accounted for 46% of the total spending on drugs by local people in the 2015 to 2021 period. Although this rate increased significantly compared to the rate of 17% in the 2001 to 2011 period, it was still much lower than the world average.

“The domestic pharmaceutical industry has not been able to produce specific drugs, only drugs for the treatment of common and chronic diseases,” he said.

Made-in-Vietnam pharmaceutical products are mostly anti-infective (32.54%), antipyretic and analgesic (15.5%) and vitamins and minerals (6.55%). Most essential drugs must still be imported. Domestic GMP-WHO factories mainly produce generic drugs (copies of brand-name drugs).

Le Van Truyen, former health deputy minister, said Vietnam’s pharmaceutical industry does not have a strong and modern national R&D centre and lacks international-level clinical trial and biological research centres.

In addition, there is no separate industrial park for pharmaceutical production with a complete ecosystem.

“Most pharmaceutical companies are of small and medium sizes with limited financial capacity and have not yet formed national-scale pharmaceutical corporations,” he said.Truyen said a majority of domestic pharmaceutical companies lacked resources to exploit the domestic market.

The goal of providing 80% of the market demand for pharmaceutical products would be very difficult to achieve if no breakthroughs were made, he said.

Ta Manh Hung, deputy director of the ministry’s drug administration of Vietnam, said that domestic pharmaceutical producers are mostly of small scale, there are few domestically-produced products and the content of science and technology in products is not high.Those are limitations of the domestic pharmaceutical industry which are highlighted during the Covid-19 pandemic, he said.

As in many other developing countries, Vietnamese spending on medicines is increasing, an inevitable trend when incomes improve along with rapid urbanisation.

According to Ha, each Vietnamese spends an average of US$73 (RM327) on medicines in 2021, up from just US$6.70 (RM30) in 2002.

With a population of around 100 million, of which, people aged from 65 and over account for 11.9%, the spending on drugs is anticipated to grow at a faster pace. — Viet Nam News/ANN

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Vietnam , pharma , potential , R&D , demand , spending


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