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Myanmar has emerged as one of the most promising healthcare markets in Southeast Asia.
According to a study conducted by DKSH and Nicholas Hall, the Myanmar healthcare sector is growing at a brisk pace due to increasing government support and strong domestic demand.
I believe this Southeast Asian country with a population of approximately 56 million is an attractive target for many health products manufacturers and over-the-counter (OTC) medication suppliers. Here are some positive indicators of future potential and healthcare performance for you to consider before entering Myanmar.
As 70 percent of the population lives in rural areas and an estimated 26 percent of the population live below the poverty line, the government continues to focus on improving the healthcare sector. Although healthcare is organized and provided by both the public and private sectors, the Ministry of Health remains the major provider of comprehensive healthcare for its population.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Myanmar’s healthcare expenditure relative to GDP is one of the lowest in the world: in 2016, it was just over one percent of the country’s USD 64 billion GDP, significantly below the percent mark recommended by WHO for all countries.
Having recognized the need to improve, the government has increased the allocation for health expenditure from USD 279 million in 2012 to USD 789 million in 2017. According to its latest National Health Plan, the government has indicated that one of its first healthcare priorities will be to improve and expand basic healthcare provisions, reducing out-of-pocket payment (OPP) spending on medical treatments and enabling the opening of more private healthcare centers to reduce the strain on public hospitals.
Market research agencies estimate that Myanmar’s pharmaceutical market has grown and is continuing to grow by double digits. It is noteworthy that approximately 85 percent of local demand for OTC medicines and health supplements is met by imports from foreign drug companies.
One of the major catalysts for OTC growth is seen as being people taking more care of their own health and hence spending more on healthcare.
The highest growth opportunities are expected to come from sales of vitamins, minerals and supplements, followed by analgesics and cough as well as cold and allergy treatment products.
As the market demand and purchasing power grow, Myanmar consumers will continue to expect more brand options in the market. The DKSH and Nicholas Hall research also found that the number of pharmacies and chain drugstores is increasing, which means products can reach more people in more areas, hence offering exceptional opportunities for international brands and consumer products to expand their consumer base in this country.
I believe that as urbanization increases, and the government shows stronger commitment to improve accessibility and delivery of healthcare, Myanmar is clearly set to become a very exciting market for OTC brands in Asia. However, Myanmar business culture has its uniqueness and complications, so finding the right business partners is a key success factor to thrive in this market. What are your thoughts on the OTC market opportunity in Myanmar?
Pharmacies in Myanmar: OTC Trends and Opportunities in the Pharmacy Business of Myanmar. A Pharmacist Survey in Myanmar, 2018 (Nicholas Hall and DKSH)
Phillip Wray is Vice President Healthcare at DKSH Myanmar. With 25 years of experience in the Asia Pacific healthcare sector, he has a solid understanding of the region’s opportunities and challenges.
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