Vietnam allows foreign firm to import drugs for first time


The license has somewhat shown Vietnam’s relaxed management of drugs market which is likely to reach USD7.7 billion by 2021.

France-based Sanofi-Aventis Vietnam Co., Ltd has been licensed to directly import drugs to Vietnam

France-based Sanofi-Aventis Vietnam Co., Ltd has been licensed to directly import drugs to Vietnam, becoming the first foreign-invested firm eligible to get such right in the country. 

Vietnam’s pharmaceutical trade forecast. Photo: Business Monitor International

With this license, Sanofi directly imported the first batch of meningococcal meningitis vaccines, Vietnam Investment Review reported. 

The move, which somewhat shows Vietnam’s relaxed regulations on this sector after the country signed the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA), is expected to draw more foreign investment in the lucrative local pharmaceutical industry while increasing access to qualified drugs among locals.

However, some concerns have been raised on the possible pressure on local pharmaceutical firms once the import duty on drugs is reduced when the EVFTA comes into force.

Drug spending per capital in Vietnam. Photo: Business Monitor International

Sanofi Vietnam, which is said to hold about 4% of the Vietnamese pharmaceutical market, has three factories in the country, supplying 80% of its products sold in Vietnam.

Before, foreign-invested pharmaceutical companies were allowed to provide only warehouse and logistics services for pharmaceutical products while domestic companies are eligible to distribute pharmaceutical products. 

The restrictions have forced foreign-invested enterprises to partner with local firms for the distribution. 

Vietnam’s pharmaceutical industry

The Ministry of Health’s Drug Administration predicted that the country’s pharmacy sector would maintain a double-digit growth rate in the next five years. 

The 2018 Business Monitor International report showed that Vietnam’s healthcare market had a value of USD17.4 billion in 2018. Meanwhile, the country’s pharmaceutical market had an estimated a revenue of USD5.9 billion in 2018, an 11.7% increase from the previous year. 

In addition, at a per capita level, spending is expected to double from USD170 in 2017 to USD400 in 2027. 

The average spending of Vietnamese people on drugs rose from USD22.25 in 2010 to USD37.97 in 2015, and doubled to USD56 in 2017.

The average growth rate of spending on drugs was 14.6% during 2010-2015 and is set to remain at least 14% until 2025.   

The figures make Vietnam the second largest medicine market in the South East Asia. 

Vietnamese drugs manufacturers are able to meet half of the total medicines market demand, while imports cover the remaining half.

In addition, approximately 60% of pharmaceutical end products, 90% of active pharmaceutical ingredients, and most raw materials for the production of pharmaceuticals are currently imported. 

In recent years, the authorities have stepped up their efforts to reduce the country’s reliance on imports. As part of their 2020 strategy, authorities intend to have 80% of domestic pharmaceutical demand met by local drug manufacturers through measures such as tendering preferences.