Though Peruvian pharmaceuticals still lag far behind regional leaders such as Brazil and Argentina, many opportunities exist as demand for medicine continues to rise. Factors driving this potential include increased purchasing power, improved access to health care and government initiatives to stock up on generic medicines. However, the onslaught of free trade agreements and high laboratory fees suggest Peru could become more of an ideal market rather than a production hub.
Pharmaceuticals production expanded 7% in 2012, according to the Association of National Pharmaceuticals Industries (Asociación de Industrias Farmacé uticas Nacionales, ADIFAN), owing largely to a 12.2% increase in sales throughout commercial pharmacies. According to the National Association of Pharmaceuticals Manufacturers, in the first half of 2013, the retail over-the-counter pharmaceuticals market grew 15.8% in dollar terms, while in unit terms it grew 9.6% compared to the same period in 2012. The prescription products market saw an increase of 15.9% and 9.3% in dollar sales and volumes, respectively.
Composed of a relatively small number of companies, the market is primarily dominated by Inkafarma, Química Suiza and Boticas Arcángel, local players that have grown rapidly. In 2011, Química Suiza expanded its profile to that of an international corporation by beginning to operate under the title of QUICORP, purchasing several competitors along the way, such as Boticas Torres de Limatambo and the Gloria-MiFarma chain. In 2012 the company continued its growth by acquiring 100% of Boticas Fasa. Inkafarma was also in the spotlight in 2011 when it was acquired by the local Grupo Interbank. These large firms are now looking to further penetrate provincial cities, following patterns similar to general retail.
According to Dr Carlos Arósquipa Rodríguez, human resources consultant at the Pan American Health Organisation, popular notions on the quality of medicine influence consumer habits. “Many people believe generic drugs are of poor quality or that they are meant for the poor,” he told OBG. “Hence, we find a lot of patients buying brand name drugs even if they cannot afford them.” Even so, Peru displays relatively low levels of annual per capita spending on pharmaceuticals, which in 2009, the latest year for which figures were available, reached PEN126.3 ($47.56), according to the Ministry of Health (Ministerio de Salud, MINSA). That same year, pharmaceuticals accounted for 0.95% of GDP and 21.3% of total health spending.
MINSA accounts for the bulk of the generic drug market, purchasing in volume to stock up public health facilities and pharmacies. According to Paulina Giusti Hundskopf, chief of MINSA’s Consultancy Cabinet, the margins of local laboratory fees are extremely high, forcing the government to explore more cost-efficient transactions. One strategy involves reverse auctions where companies compete to sell their products by slashing prices.
For Giusti, health care improvement relies heavily on gaining access to medicine, especially for chronic diseases like cancer. The state-run initiative Plan Experanza, which currently offers 54 cancer treatment drugs, seeks to greatly increase its portfolio through MINSA’s purchasing schemes. The government is also trying to promote preventive measures, since 45,000 new cases of cancer are detected each year, of which 75% are discovered in already advanced stages when curing the disease is no longer feasible.
Local producers may soon find themselves facing additional challenges due to other recent events. At the beginning of 2013, Congress approved a motion for MINSA to begin buying generic medicine directly from foreign companies as another method to cut down on costs. If such negotiations prove successful, the local pharmaceuticals industry’s share of government purchases is likely to drop significantly. Trends already indicate that internal consumption is relying more on foreign products. In 2012 imports grew 7.3%, accounting for $880.7m, while exports contracted 18%, accounting for only $40.6m, according to ADIFAN.
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