Vietnam’s pharma market booms amid short supply

By Phuong Dong   November 16, 2016 | 07:31 pm PT
The country spent $2.1 billion on imported drugs last year.

Vietnam’s pharmaceutical manufacturers met less than half the nation's demand for drugs last year, experts said at a seminar on Monday.

From 2010 to 2015, local pharmaceutical firms saw annual growth rates of 17-20 percent, according to Le Van Truyen, former deputy health minister.

Truyen called Vietnam the largest pharmaceutical growth market in the region with a value that's expected to hit $7.2 million in 2020 -- up 71 percent from 2015.

“Vietnam is considered to be emerging within the pharmaceutical world,” Truyen said, adding that the recent expansion of social insurance boosted demand for free drugs.

Domestically-manufactured medicines only met 45 percent of demand last year, causing frequent supply shortages at local hospitals.

Data from Vietnam’s General Statistics Office revealed that the country spent $2.1 billion importing meds from external sources in 2015 compared to a mere $1.1 million in 2009.

“This is an impetus for international pharmaceutical corporations to purchase shares or transfer technology to Vietnamese companies,” Truyen said. 

In June, Japanese drug manufacturer Taisho Group paid around VND2.2 trillion ($98 million) for a 24.4 per cent stake in Vietnam’s leading drug maker Hau Giang Pharmaceutical Joint Stock Company.

Global healthcare company Abbott announced in September that it acquired Vietnam's third-largest publicly traded drugmaker, Glomed, but didn’t disclose the details of the deal.

Dang Tran Hai Dang of Vietinbank Securities said that Vietnam's publicly-traded pharma firms saw good growth, both in terms of revenue and profit, during the first nine months of 2016.  

Pharmaceutical stocks have caught the interest of investors, though most of the listed firms have run out of room for foreign ownership, said Dang.

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