Country Report: Thailand

Jul 01, 2012
By Pharmaceutical Executive Editors

This sponsored supplement was produced by Focus Reports.

Project Director: Merlin Ozkan
Journalist: Herbert Mosmuller
Contributors: Marine Neveu
Report Publisher: Beatrice Collet

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Jirapat Tatsanasomboon, Thavibu Art Gallery
Indochina's biggest pharmaceutical market (US$ 4 billion, 66 million population, <5 percent of GDP spent on healthcare) has quickly matured over the past years due to the implementation of heavy cost containment measures meant to make healthcare more accessible to the patient. These measures have driven the market from double-digit growth to almost flat growth within the course of two years.

While increased generics volumes have led to opportunities for local manufacturers, the high number of local competitors, facing off against an increasing number of regional enterprises and Multi-National Companies (MNCs) looking to market branded generics, meant that only the strongest were able to successfully navigate through the changes. At the same time, as the government targeted innovative drugs on the List of Essential Medicine, many MNCs had to change their focus to stay profitable in Thailand's state-dominated market.

It is survival of the fittest in the land of smiles, but those MNCs and Thai manufacturers that find the right answer in dealing with the new conditions are blossoming and, moreover, have a bright future ahead with market growth picking up again, expectations of more proportional spending in the government healthcare budget, and the opening up of ASEAN's 600 million consumer market by 2015 as part of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC). During several weeks of interviews with key stakeholders, Focus Reports went to look for the winning strategy in this fast-changing environment.


Wittaya Buranasiri, Minister of Public Health
The whole Thai population receives health insurance, only there are major differences between the three kinds of coverage provided. The Civil Servants Medical Benefits Scheme (CSMBS) provides uncapped healthcare but covers only a small proportion of population, providing probably double that of average spending per capita. Below the CSMBS is the Social Security Scheme (SSS), which covers a moderate percentage of the population through a capped system funded through employer contributions. At the lowest level Thailand has the universal coverage, through which the government claims 95 percent of the population is covered. This scheme is capped at a mere 60 USD per year. Patients covered under this scheme generally receive minimalist healthcare.

The hospital channel represents 80 percent of the pharmaceutical market, and the government drive toward increasing accessibility to healthcare has essentially been successful. Measures are set to continue. "We do not have a policy to merge the different schemes into a single one, but we do try to harmonize them to reduce inequity in service, quality, and efficiency," said Minister of Public Health Wittaya Buranasiri. "Expenditures in our system are currently very high, and although it is not our policy to just cut the budget, we try to harmonize our three healthcare schemes by changing the management between the schemes, and improving the benefit package while bringing the quality standards to the same levels."

A more proportional structuring of the government healthcare budget is expected to lead to dramatic market growth. Increased spending of five percent within Universal Coverage would mean an additional 800 Baht (25 USD) for about 45 million people. Such a measure would improve healthcare and open up spending on pharmaceuticals as well.

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