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The Malaysian phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal indus­try has shown pro­gres­sive growth over the years, par­tic­u­larly in the last decade. Recently, eco­nomic indi­ca­tions in the coun­try have began to look pos­i­tive, which should help sus­tain growth within the phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal sec­tor.

The OTC Health­care mar­ket in Malaysia increased at a com­pound growth rate of 8.3% per year between 2006 and 2012, account­ing for 30% of the total mar­ket. The remain­ing 70% is com­prised of Rx prod­ucts.

Many local man­u­fac­tur­ers have recently begun to develop and launch off-patent generic and herbal prod­ucts; they are on the look-out for new and inno­v­a­tive prod­ucts and licence agree­ments from countries out­side Malaysia. Cur­rently, the local indus­try meets approx­i­mately 30% of domes­tic demand, in addi­tion to export­ing to other Asia-Pacific coun­tries, the Mid­dle East, Africa, Latin Amer­ica and Europe. But the rather large remain­ing 70% of domes­tic demand is accounted for by imported prod­ucts, on which Malaysia is highly depen­dent.

Malaysia has less than 100-150 local phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal man­u­fac­tur­ers. How­ever, there are many OTC Cos­metic and Med­ical Device play­ers. The major­ity of these man­u­fac­tur­ers pro­duce generic drugs, which have gained popularity in Malaysian hospitals and clinics, particularly since the finan­cial cri­sis of 2008-2010, due to their afford­able prices. Fur­ther­more, there is an increas­ing demand for spe­cial­ist treat­ment among mid­dle- and upper-class Malaysians due to lifestyle-related dis­eases, such as heart com­pli­ca­tions and var­i­ous forms of can­cer.

Lead­ing Malaysian com­pa­nies are now also mov­ing towards the pro­duc­tion of bio­logical drugs, oncol­ogy and high-value generic com­pounds, all in line with the grow­ing demands of the region. Although the country has voiced objec­tions to cer­tain ele­ments in the Transpa­cific Part­ner­ship Agree­ment, it is mak­ing progress in terms of trade rela­tions—the gov­ern­ment began nego­ti­a­tions over the cre­ation of a Euro­pean Free Trade Agree­ment in Novem­ber of 2012, which will make gaining access to the promis­ing Malaysian OTC and Pharma mar­ket less chal­leng­ing.

The largest phar­macy chain in Malaysia is Guardian and Wat­sons, which trans­formed itself from a small inde­pen­dent retail store into a lead­ing phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal dis­trib­u­tor for almost 30 million peo­ple across the coun­try. There are, how­ever, also many pri­vately owned sin­gle drugstores in Malaysia, which offer a solid assort­ment of OTC and Rx products, Cosmetics and so on.