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Parliament in Berlin, Germany, with the German flag in the wind

Featured image: Photo by Maheshkumar Painam on Unsplash

The OTC and pharma market in Germany

A strong coun­try in West­ern Europe with a rich his­tory, Ger­many is home to the old­est uni­ver­sal health­care sys­tem, dat­ing back to social legislation from the Bis­marck Repub­lic. In the last 20 years, life expectancy has increased by four years for women and five years for men, reach­ing an aver­age of 80.

Since reunification in 1990, Ger­many has expended con­sid­er­able funds to har­monise pro­duc­tiv­ity and wages across the coun­try, and pros­per­ity has increased on the basis of Ger­man exports, par­tic­u­larly machin­ery, vehi­cles, met­als, chem­i­cals and other goods nec­es­sary in Emerg­ing Mar­kets.

Accord­ing to the World Health Organ­i­za­tion (WHO), Germany’s dis­ease profile reflects its high-income sta­tus: heart dis­ease and stroke are the most com­mon causes of death, fol­lowed by can­cer, par­tic­u­larly of the lung and colon. The gen­eral can­cer mor­tal­ity rate is lower than the EU aver­age, but it is slightly higher for breast can­cer. Com­mu­ni­ca­ble dis­eases account for just 5% of life years lost. Around 24% of the pop­u­la­tion smokes, a rel­a­tively high rate, and the obe­sity rate at 14.7% (found using self-reported weight and height data) is also cause for con­cern. At almost 9%, the rate of dia­betes in the 20+ age group places Ger­many fourth in the world after the US, Canada and Mex­ico.


Nev­er­the­less, Ger­mans place a lot of empha­sis on health, which is evi­dent in the OTC mar­ket, grow­ing at a rate of 2.4%. The OTC mar­ket in Ger­many is worth US $5.39 bil­lion—high com­pared to markets in other West­ern Euro­pean coun­tries.

The Ger­man pop­u­la­tion (approx­i­mately 80 mil­lion people) pay an aver­age of US $110 per year for OTC prod­ucts, which make up 11% of the total health­care mar­ket, in phar­ma­cies. Sixty-two per­cent of phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals pro­duced in Ger­many are exported, mak­ing exports a cru­cial area for the indus­try and vul­ner­a­ble to the fate of Euro­pean cur­ren­cies. The phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal indus­try is just as strong as the country’s econ­omy as a whole.

The German phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal mar­ket size in 2012 amounted to US $49 bil­lion; this, in com­par­i­son to East­ern Europe, is a rel­a­tively gigan­tic mar­ket. With a pro­jected annual mar­ket growth of 2.1% per year until 2018, the phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal indus­try is expected to grow to US $55.51 bil­lion. Fur­ther remark­able is the low share of inter­na­tional prod­ucts in Ger­many: 50%.

The German phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal indus­try employs 105,000 peo­ple. In 2012 more than 903 phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pa­nies were reg­is­tered in Ger­many. (This exclud­es OTC com­pa­nies.) Nev­er­the­less, there is a need for inno­v­a­tive and niche prod­ucts in this coun­try.

Inno­va­tion is a dri­ving force for the suc­cess­ful devel­op­ment of phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pa­nies. Research and devel­op­ment in the phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal indus­try aim to expand the pos­si­bil­i­ties for diag­no­sis and causal and symp­to­matic ther­apy, as well as develop dis­ease pre­ven­tion mea­sures and fill gaps. Drugstores have a big influence in Germany; the chains dm and Ross­man offer many OTC prod­ucts. Since 1999 OTC prod­ucts have been permitted to be sold in drug­stores, but phar­macy chains are still sub­ject to restric­tions.

Ger­many has 21,000 phar­ma­cies, with a citizen-to-pharmacy ratio of 3,900 peo­ple per phar­macy. The mail-order and Inter­net phar­macy mar­kets are also grow­ing dra­mat­i­cally: these sec­tors have increased more than 30% in the last three years. The aver­age growth of mail-order phar­ma­cies is esti­mated at 7% per year, with a mar­ket worth around US $1.9 bil­lion in 2012. What’s more, the country’s ageing pop­u­la­tion will need new and more effective ther­a­pies in the com­ing years, par­tic­u­larly in treat­ments for can­cer, heart dis­ease, Alzheimer’s and osteo­poro­sis.

Despite tough pric­ing and reim­burse­ment con­di­tions, as well as the challenging effects of patent expi­ra­tions, Ger­many remains one of the largest global phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal mar­kets, and that status will con­tinue to increase its rewards. Investors still see Ger­many as a solid propo­si­tion, and for good rea­son: unem­ploy­ment has fallen to a post-reunification low of 5.5%, and the country has a cur­rent account sur­plus of 5% of the GDP.

The German OTC and pharma market in 2030

USD 64,05 Billion

OTC and pharma market size 


OTC and pharma market growth

Germany in numbers

Total population


Population growth

Birth rate

Mortality rate

Life expectancy

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