Big pharma faces serious competition in emerging countries

While the expanding economies and populations of Asia, Africa and Latin America have gained the attention of international pharmaceutical giants, local competition is proving a significant challenge, finds a new report by healthcare industry experts GBI Research.



According to the business intelligence firm's latest study*, pharmaceutical marketing budgets for many developed countries have contracted in recent years, while support for emerging markets has only grown. For example, global spending on meetings and events dropped by 4% in 2011, but rose by 40% in China, as the industry has worked to gain access to more Key Opinion Leaders (KOL) in this market.

Equally, GBI Research data indicates that, while the number of multinationals in the Chinese market increased from 294 in 1999 to 329 in 2008, growth in the number of Chinese companies competing in the same market was much greater, rising from 1,281 to 2,424 in the same period.

Major pharmaceutical players have witnessed benefits from extending inroads into emerging nations, but face stiff opposition. The geographical reach of local companies, as well as their wide distribution networks, flexible promotion methods, and close relationships with local government officials and hospitals, have all served to cement a strong market position.

Emerging pharmaceutical markets operate with a greater focus on generic rather than branded products and the dominance of local companies requires the largest pharmaceutical firms to alter their strategies in order to compete, says the report.

Although political pressure to improve access to healthcare will fuel growth, in many emerging countries it is the patient who is required to pay for medicines, resulting in a smaller target audience for new, more expensive treatments favored by multinational firms.
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