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The OTC and pharma market in Kazakhstan

The health­care mar­ket in Kaza­khstan is very young. After the col­lapse of the Soviet Union, Kaza­khstan lacked any estab­lished phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pa­nies, infra­struc­ture or expe­ri­ence.

Nev­er­the­less, the 1990s saw the establishment Kazakhstan’s first Pharma com­pa­nies, and over time more and more for­eign com­pa­nies found their way to the poten­tial mar­ket there, which is very much influ­enced by imports. Eighty-eight per­cent of the OTC and Pharma drugs in the 10,000 phar­ma­cies in Kaza­khstan are imported. In terms of cos­met­ics and food sup­ple­ments, the import num­ber might be even higher. Now, Kaza­khstan spends 7% of its GDP on health­care, which varies from rural to urban areas. The average Kazakh spends US $400 a year on health­care.

Ger­many is one of the lead­ing exporters to Kaza­khstan, fol­lowed by France, Rus­sia, Aus­tria and India. Over the past few years, the Kazakh Pharma mar­ket has had an aver­age growth rate of 20%. This large growth rate can be explained by the increase in the population’s real income, as well as by the com­mer­cial­isa­tion of health­care, the foun­da­tion of pri­vate surg­eries and the sup­pres­sion of shadow imports. The launch of more and more premium-price products also sup­ports the growth in value terms.

The need for inno­v­a­tive prod­ucts will increase because of the lim­ited range the Kazakh OTC and Pharma indus­try cur­rently offers and because of increas­ing patient demand for premium, high-quality prod­ucts. In our opin­ion, the mar­ket in Kaza­khstan will remain highly influ­enced by for­eign imports in the com­ing years.

Kazakh gov­ern­men­tal pro­grams are designed to sup­port new capa­bil­i­ties, the mod­ern­isa­tion of national pro­duc­tion and the imple­men­ta­tion of the qual­ity stan­dard GMP. With an investment of US $250 million, the gov­ern­ment wants to build new indus­try zones in Kaza­khstan; the gov­ern­ment also wants to invest US $3 bil­lion to improve health­care for its cit­i­zens. Kazakhstan’s phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal pro­duc­tion capac­ity should be boosted sub­stan­tially over the next five years as the gov­ern­ment invests in build­ing new plants and com­pa­nies to real­ise its poten­tial in domes­tic pro­duc­tion and exports. The min­istry also cited the suc­cess of the ‘Calamity Kaza­khstan’ (Healthy Kaza­khstan) ini­tia­tives, the main state-driven strat­egy for increas­ing access to health­care. In addi­tion, health­care remains a pri­or­ity of the president’s so-called ‘Kaza­khstan 2050’ pro­gram, a blue­print for the long-term devel­op­ment of infra­structure and key social ser­vices in the com­ing decades.

The biggest Kazakh Pharma com­pany, Chimpharm, owns 50% of local drug pro­duc­tion and has just been taken over by the Pol­ish Pharma com­pany Pol­pharma. Chim­pharm also owns the brand Santo.

As men­tioned above, the mar­ket is still highly influ­enced by imports of for­eign com­pa­nies, but there are nev­er­the­less seven large com­pa­nies reg­is­tered in Kaza­khstan, in addi­tion to 50 dis­trib­u­tors, who allo­cate the 3,000 reg­is­tered pre­scrip­tion drugs. Local com­pa­nies produc­e basic generic drugs and unso­phis­ti­cated med­ical uten­sils; spe­cific and inno­v­a­tive prod­ucts are usu­ally imported. There are many com­pa­nies dis­trib­ut­ing west­ern OTC drugs, Rx med­i­cations and med­ical devices.

Many Kazakh peo­ple suf­fer from car­dio­vas­cu­lar dis­or­ders, can­cer, dia­betes, res­pi­ra­tory dis­eases and other chronic dis­eases. The World Health Orga­ni­za­tion has also indi­cated increased tobacco con­sump­tion and high blood pres­sure among inhab­i­tants.

Kaza­khstan remains the most attrac­tive phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal mar­ket in Cen­tral Asia in terms of the over­all reg­u­la­tory envi­ron­ment and ease of doing busi­ness com­pared to neigh­bour­ing coun­tries. The domes­tic mar­ket is con­strained by the still-small size of the pop­u­la­tion and daunt­ing infra­struc­tural chal­lenges.

The gov­ern­ment of Kaza­khstan wants to enter the WTO, but some bar­ri­ers, such as mar­ket entry and the non-liberal cus­toms union with Rus­sia and Belarus, still exist. Kazakhstan’s mem­ber­ship in the Cus­toms Union (CU) with Rus­sia and Belarus should drive con­tin­ued improve­ments in reg­u­la­tion and har­mo­nisa­tion, assum­ing the con­tra­dic­tions of mem­ber­ship in the two groups (such as com­mon exter­nal tar­iffs) can be ironed out.

The cus­toms union with Rus­sia, Belarus and Kaza­khstan cov­ers a total of 170 mil­lion inhab­i­tants and offers big mar­ket poten­tial. The idea is that reg­is­tered OTC and pre­scrip­tion drugs in the union can be sold every­where within the union with­out tar­iffs.

Lead­ing mar­ket researchers state that the Kazakh mar­ket is going to be the mar­ket with the largest increasesin the CIS and CEE Region. It is sup­ported by a healthy and strong econ­omy, which was 6.9% in the past year and is expected to reach 6% in the cur­rent year.

All in all, Kaza­khstan is a very promis­ing coun­try with its expected aver­age growth rate of 20% over the next few years bol­stered by the demand for inno­v­a­tive health­care prod­ucts such as pre­scrip­tion medications, med­ical devices, OTC and food sup­ple­ments, as well as for medical exper­tise.

Kazakhstan in numbers

Total population

Male/Female ratio

Population growth

Birth rate

Mortality rate

Life expectancy

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