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Autumnal view of the chinese wall
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China: a traditional yet modern Rx and OTC market 

The Chinese OTC and Rx market is one of the largest in the world and has a long and unique history. Healthcare is one of the three biggest economic pillars in China, along with education and housing. Reforming the healthcare system to make it more affordable has been a major priority of the Chinese government.

Origins of Chinese Medicine

Progressive medical technologies and traditional medicine “get along” perfectly well.

The Chinese say: “A person who starts treatment after becoming sick is like a commander who begins to prepare a weapon when a battle has already started.” The comparison with a battle is not just an analogy. Traditional Chinese medicine treats disease as a fight which is better not to start at all.

During the reign of Emperor Qin Shi Huang (259-210 BC), all books on philosophy in China were burned on his order. Only encyclopedic treatises with medical themes were retained. Since then the attitude towards health and medicine in China has not changed. Even nowadays the government is highly aware of the crucial importance of the Ministry of Health.

Interest in ancient medical practices in China was revived in the mid-1950s. Surprisingly, this coincided with the beginning of the implementation of western medicine (adopted in most countries of the world) in China. This period can be considered the beginning of the bifurcation of Chinese medicine, the moment when its history divided and took two paths, very different in methods but ever so close in aims. Medicine in China is like a two-headed dragon: one of its heads is traditional, the other is modern; the body of the dragon represents a single desire, a single purpose—to cure a patient. Today the Chinese healthcare system is recognized as containing a mixture of various treatment options for patients: from medical supplies to herbs, from surgery to acupuncture. Methods and approaches to treating a patient depend primarily on the disease and the individual’s preferences.

From ancient times to nowadays there have been many different practices, and billions of people have been cured, but one thing remains constant: a great deal of attention has been and continues to be paid to medicine and its development.


China OTC and pharma market 

Just as a house cannot stand without a strong foundation, so it is impossible for the health care system of a country to thrive without the development of a strong pharmaceutical sector. Three of these foundations are listed below:

  1. China Healthcare ecosystem
    The rate of China’s economic growth attracts foreign investments in all sectors and particularly in the pharmaceutical industry. China reports that it increases its flow of money annually. By making use of Western experience, technology, cheap labor and financial resources, the Chinese have managed time to create an unbreakable ecosystem around their healthcare system within a short time period.
  2. China Governmental subsidies
    Huge annual government subsidies aimed at stimulating the growth of the medical market play an important role in the success of the consumer healthcare and prescription medicine market in China. For this reason, many training sessions for medical personnel are held annually, and advanced and innovative medical equipment for diagnostics and laboratory studies are produced.
  3. China Governmental program for development
    In 2009 the Communist Party of China adopted a program for the development of the pharmaceutical industry in the country through 2020 called “Opinions of the CPC Central Committee and the State Council on Deepening the Health Care System Reform”. The program is funded with a budget of 123 billion dollars. Grants are distributed among exporters of pharmaceutical products, educational institutions and developers of pharmaceutical equipment.

The China consumer health and pharma market hosts the largest production resources on the planet

At the moment, the Chinese Pharma industry owns the largest production resources on the planet. China’s self-medication and Rx industry mainly produces synthetic chemicals and drugs, prepared Chinese medicines, medical devices and machinery. Synthetic drug manufacturing is the largest component in China’s consumer healthcare and Rx industry. 

China’s cosmetics sector

The cosmetics sector on the Chinese mainland has been growing at a fast pace in recent years. The retail sales value of cosmetics in China rose to $52.3 billion in 2020, and is expected to reach 125 billion USD by 2035, making it the world’s second-largest beauty and personal care product market after the United States.

M & A

Mergers and acquisitions activity in China is especially dynamic (domestically and from a cross-border perspective). China and India are the most active M&A players in the geographic region.

OTC market

China’s over-the-counter market is also growing fast and has become one of the largest consumer healthcare markets in the world. Although OTC drugs only account for a minority of the Chinese pharmaceutical market, sales of these products are growing in increasing proportion to sales of prescription drugs. The OTC Market should reach USD 248 billion ex-factory in 2035

Trying to become better

Currently, more stringent requirements for OTC and pharma companies in China have been put in place to minimize environmental violations. The 2011 five-year plan was introduced to strengthen measures ensuring product safety. The plan requires that production of synthetic drugs and drugs of biological origin occur in accordance with international standards and introduce new standards for quality control for medical products. The 14th five-year plan (2021-2026) will focus on modernizing the supply chain, as well as improving the products’ quality. All of those changes aim at further developing the OTC and pharma market and put themselves on the map of the international consumer health and pharma market. 


Our Added Value

CPC expertise extends to the healthcare Industry in China and all over the world. All our multicultural experts possess extensive experience and have no fewer than 20 years in the global healthcare industry and emerging markets, including China. We provide our clients with a wide range of Pharma and Healthcare Consulting Services focusing on Consumer Healthcare, Pharma Rx, Derma, Medical Devices, Food Supplements, FMCG and Wholesale. We bring a global understanding of industry opportunities and challenges to every client, every time.

The Chinese OTC and pharma market in 2035


USD 248,2 billion

OTC and pharma market size, ex-factory


OTC and pharma market growth

China in numbers

Total population


Population growth

Birth rate

Mortality rate

Life expectancy

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