BURLINGTON, Mass., April 21, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- Decision Resources Group finds that Vietnam is currently one of the fastest growing pharmaceutical markets in Southeast Asia, recording a growth rate of nearly 17 percent and exceeding $3 billion in size in 2013. Increasing affluence, a rapidly aging population and the steady extension of public health insurance are among factors that are driving demand for prescription medicines. Vietnam has set an ambitious goal to achieve universal health coverage by 2015, since over 30 percent of the population is still not covered by any form of public health insurance, and private health expenditure remains high at 57 percent of the country's total health expenditure. Vietnamese patients also face a burden from relatively high drug prices, due to limited domestic drug production and a lack of cost-containment measures. Foreign drug manufactures must contend with a regionally fragmented market, as well as weak intellectual property protection policies and a protracted regulatory environment for drug approval and distribution when doing business in Vietnam.
Drug prices in Vietnam are comparatively high; 12 times higher than international reference prices. The country's difficulty in containing drug prices is exacerbated by a fragmented healthcare system, a decentralized drug procurement process and heavy dependence on imported medicines.
The population faces high out-of-pocket health expenditure, which continues to be a financial burden and a significant barrier to access to healthcare.
Typical of most developing countries, Vietnam's intellectual property rights protection is weak. The lack of regulatory transparency, as well as high penetration of counterfeit drugs into the market has contributed to the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America's request to keep the country on the Watch List in its Special 301 Report for 2014.
Ongoing negotiations to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) have caused concerns among government officials and experts because agreeing to TPP proposals may constrain the country's ability to curb rising drug costs.
Comments from Decision Resources Group Analyst Jonathan Chan, MMedSc:
"Vietnam's population reached 90 million by the end of 2013, making it the third most populous country in Southeast Asia and a sizable market for foreign drug manufacturers to consider for investment. An estimated market growth rate of 20 percent through 2017 should signal Vietnam's importance in any company's strategic planning when exploring opportunities in developing markets."
"Signing off on the TPP agreement would require Vietnam to concede an additional period of data exclusivity on top of a 20-year patent term. This data exclusivity period, which denies drug regulators the use of clinical trial data from the originator to approve generic alternatives until the period expires, typically lasts at least five years, and may not begin until closer to the end of the 20-year patent term. This effectively delays generic competition and keeps drug prices high, outcomes that work against the interests of the country."
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