China to claim second place in drug market by 2015, says IMS Health

By Alexandria Pešić

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Pharmacology, Pharmaceutical industry, Investment

IMS Health predicts China will become the world’s second largest pharmaceutical market by 2015 due to robust economic growth and healthcare reforms that allow for increased spending on drugs.

Dr Sati Sian, IMS general manager in China, told in-PharmaTechnologist that an ageing population, increasing incidence of chronic diseases, as well as significant investment from corporations are fundamental drivers behind the increasing growth.

“The movement up the ranking table is driven by both the aggressive growth in China and the slowing growth in the current major markets,”​ he said.

China is set to see drug sales increase by 25-27 per cent to over $50bn next year, securing its place as third largest pharmaceutical market in the world behind Japan and the US - which maintains its number one spot.

According to IMS, despite China’s rocketing pharmaceutical market sales growth in the developed markets is stalling. The firm attributes dwindling drug sales to tough economic conditions and increasing healthcare costs in Europe, the US and Japan.

Many of the major brands are losing exclusivity, said Sian. He explained that as blockbusters drugs lose patent protection, emerging markets such as Asia and Latin America have become targets for drugmakers wishing to produce prescription and over-the-counter drugs.

“The growth in China is not only from Western medicines,”​ argued Sian. “In fact, the domestic companies are growing faster than multinational corporations (MNCs) with local products,”​ he said.

While this may be the case, Sian recognises that Western medicines enjoy a higher reputation for quality. With a rising middle-class they remain the first choice for those in China who can afford them.

‘Pharmerging’ markets

IMS says that 17 emerging markets will account for 50 per cent of global growth in pharmaceutical sales over the next five years. This makes them an obvious target for Western manufacturers. Large European pharma firms such as Bayer, Sanofi-Aventis, AstraZeneca and GlaxoSmithKline have all invested in emerging markets.

Other ‘pharmerging’ markets include India and Vietnam, which are improving gross domestic product (GDP) and receiving further government support, but China continues to grow at an incomparable rate.

“The only risk to China’s growth,”​ said Sian, “is any major government policy actions. But the primary focus of government policy currently is providing broader access and affordability for basic medicines.”

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