China’s OTC Drug Market Shows Potential Growth

While both the U.S. and European over-the-counter (OTC) drug markets are mature, valued at approximately $30 billion and $24 billion respectively, it is Asia’s OTC market that is showing the fastest growth. Many countries in Asia are experiencing strong economic growth, and with an increasing elderly population, more people are willing to spend larger amounts of money on healthcare. Currently, the OTC market in Asia is worth around $25 billion, but expanding at an annual rate of 12-14 percent.

The fastest growing OTC market in Asia is China’s, growing at a rate of up to 40 percent each year. Although China’s OTC market only makes up about $5 billion of Asia’s total market, it is expected to be worth close to $10 billion within the next 2-3 years.

China currently has around 1,800 China-foreign pharmaceutical joint ventures, along with over 5,000 domestic drug companies. OTC drugs only make up only around 10 percent of the pharmaceutical market in China, so more and more foreign drug companies are entering and/or expanding their presence in the country with OTC drugs.

AstraZeneca, boasting around 20 facilities in China with over 1,500 employees, just released its first OTC drug in China in April 2005. The drug is the first proton-pump inhibitor OTC drug in the country. Pfizer, another of the largest global pharmaceutical companies, has invested an excess of $500 million in China and has several manufacturing facilities set up there. The company has about 40 types of prescription and OTC drugs on the market in China, and plans to introduce another 20 drugs by 2010.