Health coverage makes Thailand attractive market for pharmaceuticals

THAILAND- Thailand remains one of the most demographically attractive pharmaceutical markets in the world, with more than 99 per cent of its population having some form of health-insurance coverage last year, according to US-based Decision Resources.

"The success of Thailand's healthcare systems is underpinned by its three major public health-insurance schemes, particularly the universal coverage scheme," said Jonathan Chan, an analyst of Decision Resources, a research and advisory firm for pharmaceutical and healthcare issues.

"Despite the politically turbulent environment characterised by violent periodic protests, Thailand's universal coverage scheme remains a popular policy with the general population, with satisfaction levels reaching as high as 93 per cent among users and 79 per cent among providers in recent years," he added.

Policy review

He also noted that while the government's commitment to ensuring access to healthcare services for the whole population is welcome news for foreign manufacturers, the rising cost of providing healthcare for its ageing population had prompted the government to review its health-spending patterns and reimbursement policies.

"In the coming years, the government will likely impose greater cost-containment measures through price cuts and more stringent HTA [health technology assessment] evaluation for reimbursement."

Decision Resources said Thailand's extensive network of healthcare facilities, comprehensive health-insurance policies and strong medical-tourism industry were among the major factors driving growth of the pharmaceutical market since healthcare reforms were introduced in 2001.

The universal coverage scheme, the country's largest health-insurance policy, ensures that the vast majority of the population has access to medical care.

With a US$4.7-billion (Bt151.74 billion) prescription-drug market this year and nationwide access to health services, Thailand possesses a number of favourable factors for multinational companies looking to establish a strong presence in the region.

According to the Thailand Market Access Tracker, the country's regulatory environment is relatively friendly to foreign manufacturers, although its laws protecting intellectual property are weak.

In 2011, the government funded 75 per cent of the country's total health expenditure, while out-of-pocket expenditure was 14 per cent, indicating a relatively low financial burden for the population.