Sales potential for Western medicines in Hong Kong is substantial — approximately $1.6 billion is spent each year. Hong Kong’s pharmaceutical market grew 5.4 percent in 2000, the lowest increase in recent years. And with Hong Kong’s economy floundering, prospects for this market seem muted at best. Despite this, the Hong Kong Association of Pharmaceutical Industry reports that the pharmaceutical market grew 8.7 percent in the first eight months of 2001. All sectors, including government (18.4 percent), doctor (2 percent), and trade (0.4 percent) showed growth. Hong Kong’s pharmaceutical market is driven by sales to the government, which accounts for almost 50 percent of hospital pharmaceutical purchases.
All this is good news for Hong Kong’s pharmaceutical industry. However, with looming economic uncertainty, it is unclear how long this will last. Already the Hospital Authority — the key entity in the all-important government sector — is limiting the introduction of new (i.e. more expensive) drugs into public hospitals, a sign of belt-tightening. Such drugs may still be prescribed to patients for private purchase.