Despite the global economic decline, Central and Eastern European (CEE) countries such as Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Bulgaria and Romania still represent an attractive healthcare market. Both the pharmaceutical as well as medical devices segments have not developed to their full potential, with healthcare expenditures expected to rise further. The increasing importance of this market is attracting multinational corporations (MNCs) for developing proprietary or acquiring local production sites. Merger with or an acquisition of a local market participant is considered as the most efficient way to access the local market and to further expand into the CEE markets.
New analysis from Frost & Sullivan (http://www.pharma.frost.com), Overview of Pharmaceutical and Medical Devices Industry in Central and Eastern Europe, finds that the pharmaceutical and medical devices market will grow on average at 6.9 per cent and 7.4 per cent respectively from 2009 to 2012. Bulgaria and Romania will be the fastest-growing markets, while the Czech and Hungarian markets will experience below-average growth.
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"On one hand, the Western European markets are saturated with marginal scope for growth," says Frost & Sullivan Research Analyst Vitaliy Lehkyy. "On the other hand, CEE countries still boast of an unmet demand for pharmaceuticals and medical devices, driven by the rising purchasing power of the population."
CEE pharmaceutical and medical devices markets are on average 1.5 to five times smaller in value terms per capita than the Western European ones. The improving economic position of countries in the region is resulting in a better quality of life, higher life expectancy and a consequent demand for efficient healthcare services by the ageing population.
However, the markets will be restrained by incoherent reforms of the healthcare system and volatile regulatory requirements imposed on market participants.
"For instance, compulsory fees for drug prescription in the Czech Republic and Hungary, a new pharmaceutical pricing scheme in Slovakia, and mandatory labelling of all medicaments in Cyrillic alphabet in Bulgaria, will adversely affect the market in the short-term," explains Lehkyy. "These measures imply an additional cost pressure either on consumers or drug-manufacturers and will have an adverse effect on the development of pharmaceutical markets in these countries."
Therefore, timely and effective response from government authorities will be crucial to the favourable development of the healthcare market in CEE.