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Business Opportunities in the Pharmaceutical Industry in the Philippines

The Philippine pharmaceutical market is similar to China and Iran. But according to investphilippines.gov.ph the overall market is comparable to Pakistan, Thailand, Taiwan and Indonesia in per capita, and is “consistently ranked as the 11th most attractive pharmaceutical market in the Asia-Pacific region, and the third largest market in ASEAN, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, after Indonesia and Thailand.”

In 2016, countrymeters.com reports the population of the Philippines is over 100,000,000, with a continuous growth, year to year, of about 1.9 percent. This is equivalent to 1.37 percent of the total world population, and ranks 12th in countries by population.

The pharmaceutical industry doing business in the Philippines has grown year to year, and is projected to hit P164 billion in 2018, according to, “Partnering for Nation Building: The Contributions of the Philippines Pharmaceutical Industry to Health and Economy”. The report was prepared by IMS Consulting for the Pharmaceutical Healthcare Association of the Philippines (PHA). IMS also predicted the growth would continue “year on year” until 2018, when it will ultimately reach P164 billion.

This includes the research based and generic pharmaceutical companies. Of the world’s Top 20 pharmaceutical companies over 14 have manufacturing facilities in the Philippines. Business registration in the pharmaceutical industry in the Philippines is a growing and expanding financial opportunity. The pharmaceutical manufacturing sector ranks is listed in the top 22 percent of the 240 sectors in the Philippines. Pharmaceutical patents and trademarks are securely protected, and the Intellectual Property Code of the Philippines has severe penalties for infringement of those patents and trademark rights.

There are many areas providing market opportunities for the pharmaceutical industry. There is a big demand for medicinal and pharmaceutical products. Imports increased from 2005-2010 at an annual average rate of 11.34 percent, according to investphilippines.gov.

Household consumption, according to the figures provided by Pacific Bridge Medical, has risen over 5 percent, which means household wealth has grown, allowing for an increase in healthcare spending. In 2013 alone, the per capita spending grew from $32 to $100. According to a 2006 Family Income and Expenditure Survey (FIES) drugs and medicines account for about 46 percent of the total medical out-of-pocket expenses of Philippine households. For lower income households the percentage goes up to 55 percent.

The Philippines Department of Health (DOH) set a goal of providing healthcare coverage to all citizens by 2016. Currently, 82 percent of Filipinos are enrolled in the national health insurance program, PhilHealth.

Foreign drug companies account for over 75 percent of the pharmaceutical market. Some of the biggest foreign drug companies in the Philippines are Sanofi, Pfizer and GlaxoSmithKline. There has been a huge growth in generic drugs made by domestic and foreign pharmaceutical companies in the Philippines. The fastest growing companies include Novartis’ generic arm Sandoz, Taiwan’s Orient Europharma (OEP) and Getz Pharma of Pakistan.  When all’s said and done there are more than 500 drug traders, 700 drug importers, and 5,000 drug distributors in the Philippines.

The Philippines drug pricing levels are higher than almost any other Asian country. Low rates for health care and for coverage of outpatients drugs are a few of the biggest reasons. Another set of reasons, the poor purchasing practices by Filipino hospitals, the high retail markups, and the excessive costs of importing pharmaceutical ingredients. The Philippine government has mandated price control on certain essential drugs allowing increase access to consumers.

To compete with the growing generic market, many foreign companies are lowering the brand name pharmaceuticals. Pacific Bridge Medical sites the reduction of branded pharmaceuticals in some cases by 60 percent.

In clinical trials, IMS Health also reported that the Philippines is number 8 among the top 10 and is growing at 30.9 percent annually. And it is reported that a large percentage of the total market, 65 percent, are generic drugs, which has enjoyed an annual growth rate of about 6 percent since 2010.

Legislation was made to make it mandatory for public hospitals to use generic drugs. While in the past Filipinos have been hesitant to use generic drugs, but the more they are prescribed, the more accepted they become, making generic drugs the most rapidly growing segment in the Philippines.

Building a business in the Philippines, and taking advantage of the opportunities available in the growing pharmaceutical industry, is financially tempting. Examples of the bureaucratic and legal hurdles required in the Philippines for beginning the process of business registration are listed on the World Bank Group Doing Business.

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