Thailand is one of the leading pharmaceutical markets in Southeast Asia. Its Universal Health Coverage scheme has made pharmaceuticals more affordable and accessible to every citizen, contributing to the rising market value of the pharmaceuticals in Thailand. The government has also introduced a strategic plan to develop Thailand into the medical hub in Asia, to attract foreign patients and medical tourists. This is expected to contribute to the healthcare industry, including the pharmaceutical market.
Market value of pharmaceuticals in Thailand from 2019 to 2021 with a forecast for 2027(in billion Thai baht)
Generic drug sales in Thailand amounted to around 92 billion Thai baht in 2020. Generic drugs accounted for the largest share of drug sales in Thailand since 2017, followed by patented drugs and over-the-counter drugs. With the global pandemic, more focus has been given to the pharmaceutical sector, as is the case in Thailand.
Strengths and weaknesses of the Thai pharmaceutical market
Despite the use of compulsory licensing, the pharmaceutical sector in Thailand still faces the challenge of low intellectual property protection, resulting in a high level of counterfeit drugs. However, the Ministry of Public Health has started to enforce stricter drug laws and regulations. This would have an impact on the number of issued selling licenses for modern medicine. Regardless of the challenges, Thailand’s established universal healthcare system and strong private hospital growth contribute to the development of the pharmaceutical market.
The future of pharmaceuticals in Thailand
Given the current situation of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, more consumers have stocked up on over-the-counter medication and pharmaceutical drugs such as paracetamol. This increase in demand was probably a factor in the short term rise in the number of newly established pharmaceutical businesses at the beginning of 2020. Furthermore, pharmaceutical sales as a share of GDP were forecasted to increase in the future as well. This has pushed the sector to engage in more research and development, indicating more government attention in pharmaceuticals and thus signaling higher investment in the future.
In 2020, Thailand had around 36.47 thousand doctors, which remained unchanged from the previous year. The number of doctors in Thailand had shown stable increase over the years.
In 2020, there were 1,356 hospitals in Thailand, decreasing from the previous years. In that same year, northeastern region in Thailand had the highest number of hospitals, amounting to 388 hospitals.
In 2020, 60 percent of all pharmaceutical products were distributed to public hospitals in Thailand. This was followed by 20 percent to private hospitals and 20 percent for over-the-counter medications. Most of the pharmaceutical products manufactured in Thailand are for domestic use. In that same year, only ten percent of the pharmaceutical production in the country was exported.
The pharmaceutical supply in Thailand
In general, the supply of medicines in Thailand is through the domestic production of finished drug products, mostly generic drugs. The production of modern medications in the country fluctuated over the past years, amounting to almost 80 billion Thai baht in 2020. Thailand’s pharmaceutical market is shared between government pharmaceutical organizations and private companies. As of April 2021, the number of existing pharmaceutical and medical supply businesses in Thailand amounted to over ten thousand.
Leading pharmaceutical companies in Thailand
For private pharmaceutical companies, both local and multinational companies have a good standing in the market. Thai-owned companies usually operate on low-priced pharmaceutical production. As for multinational companies, they mostly import original and patented drugs for high prices. In 2020, the American multinational pharmaceutical company Pfizer held the largest revenue share of the pharmaceutical market in Thailand, followed closely by Novartis.
The Ministry of Public Health (MPH) controls the Thai FDA (TFDA) which is responsible for the regulatory body administering drugs in the country. The Drug Control Division of the TFDA is responsible for licensing, registration, inspections, surveillance and adverse event Monitoring for every pharmaceutical company and pharmaceuticals. The Thai drug market is dominated by foreign pharma companies. By 2022, the pharmaceutical market in Thailand is predicted to double, thanks to trade negotiations, regional harmonization and positive economic trends.
There are several versions of the Drug Act currently in effect, and the Thai government is working on a revised version with updated regulations. Under the current laws, pharmaceuticals are categorized as either traditional or modern medicines, with different applications and oversight. Modern medicines are subdivided into three categories, each of which has separate registration requirements. Licenses currently do not require renewal.Source: CPhl, Statista, BOI