Emerging Pharmaceutical Markets in Southeast Asia


Dr. Sanjay Agrawal*

Leading Pharmaceutical Consultant and Editor-in-Chief of IJM Today


The healthcare and pharmaceutical manufacturing industry is highly dynamic, experiencing significant changes in its structure and operations. Companies in this business are shifting from a fully integrated company structure to a model that emphasizes outsourcing projects, partnership initiatives, and contractual arrangements. Organizations face constant challenges to stay efficient and effective in this competitive business environment. Additionally, as demographics change, the industry is transforming to meet consumers’ evolving needs and demands.


The COVID-19 pandemic has fueled investments in digital research and development (R&D) and customer engagement, accelerating the transformation of healthcare delivery systems. The increased investment and deployment of home-based health technologies present new opportunities for biopharma companies to create value. While the coming years are expected to bring many opportunities, recent reports forecast that the global pharmaceutical market will exceed $1.5 trillion by 2023, growing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 3-6 percent over the next five years. This growth rate represents a notable slowdown from the 6.3 percent seen in the previous five years.


Trends and Predictions

This market in eleven countries in South Asia such as Brunei, Burma (Myanmar), Cambodia, Timor-Leste, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam is fragmented. Aging populations and increasing healthcare needs are transforming the pharmaceutical markets in South Asia, presenting multidimensional opportunities along with new complexities and challenges for pharma market players. The intense competition in pharma manufacturing across the region creates a dynamic environment to which industry players must adapt. Governments in these countries recognize the need for its advancements and are taking adequate measures to sustain economic growth.



Nestled in the heart of Southeast Asia, Brunei is poised to be a rising star in the pharmaceutical industry. With its strategic location and robust healthcare infrastructure, the country presents promising opportunities for pharmaceutical companies looking to expand their regional presence. Brunei’s commitment to innovation and healthcare advancements sets the stage for growth and collaboration in this sector.


Burma (Myanmar) 

With its vast population and evolving healthcare system, Myanmar holds immense potential as an emerging pharmaceutical market. As the country progresses towards healthcare reforms, opportunities arise for the companies to contribute to developing quality healthcare services. Investing in Myanmar’s pharmaceutical sector can not only yield financial gains but also make a positive impact on the well-being of its population.



Cambodia, known for its rich cultural heritage, is also becoming a compelling destination for pharmaceutical investments. The country’s efforts in enhancing healthcare infrastructure and growing demand for quality products make it an attractive market for industry players. With an increasingly health-conscious population, Cambodia offers a promising pharmaceutical growth and development landscape.



Timor-Leste, a young nation with a striving healthcare system, presents a unique opportunity for pharmaceutical companies looking to expand their reach. The country’s commitment to improving healthcare services and medication access creates a favorable environment for investments. Timor-Leste’s growing demand for quality pharmaceutical products makes it an emerging market to watch in the South East Asian region.

Emerging Pharmaceutical Markets in Southeast Asia


As the largest economy in Southeast Asia, Indonesia holds tremendous potential in the pharmaceutical sector. With a growing middle class and increasing healthcare expenditure, the demand for the products is rising. Indonesia’s bold regulatory reforms and focus on healthcare development pave the way for pharmaceutical companies to tap into this thriving market and cater to the diverse needs of its population.



Laos, a landlocked nation with a developing healthcare system, is poised for growth in the pharmaceutical sector. As the country invests in expanding healthcare services and improving access to essential medicines, opportunities arise for the companies to contribute to Laos’ healthcare development. With its untapped potential and supportive government initiatives, Laos presents a promising landscape for pharmaceutical investments.



Malaysia, known for its robust healthcare infrastructure and progressive regulatory environment, offers a thriving market for pharmaceutical companies. With a strong emphasis on research and development, Malaysia has become a regional hub for clinical trials and medical innovation. As the country focuses on enhancing healthcare access and quality, the industry benefits from Malaysia’s promising market conditions.



With its growing population and rising healthcare expenditure, the Philippines presents a dynamic market for pharmaceutical companies. The country’s commitment to improving healthcare access and its robust manufacturing capabilities create opportunities for local and international players. Investing in the Philippines’ pharmaceutical sector enables companies to contribute to the nation’s goal of providing quality healthcare.



Renowned for its world-class healthcare system and research capabilities, Singapore offers a conducive environment for pharmaceutical innovation and growth. The country’s supportive regulatory framework and strong intellectual property protection attract companies seeking to establish a presence in Asia. Singapore’s strategic location and vibrant life sciences ecosystem make it an ideal hub for advancements and collaborations.



Thailand, a regional leader in healthcare, presents a promising landscape for pharmaceutical investments. With its advanced healthcare infrastructure and strong manufacturing capabilities, the country offers a conducive environment for companies to thrive. Thailand’s commitment to research and development and its growing medical tourism industry position it as an attractive destination for pharmaceutical players seeking to tap into the Southeast Asian market.



Vietnam’s rapidly growing economy and increasing healthcare expenditure make it an emerging market of interest for pharmaceutical companies. The country’s expanding middle class and the government’s focus on healthcare reforms drive the demand for quality products. Vietnam’s strategic location, large population, and evolving healthcare system allow pharmaceutical companies to establish a strong presence and contribute to the nation’s healthcare advancements.

Emerging Pharmaceutical Markets in Southeast Asia

Growth Prospects

The pharmaceutical industry is significant in the South Asian market. South Asia firms have established themselves as leaders in the global pharmaceutical landscape, with an annual growth rate of approximately 14 percent. This growth is primarily driven by the expanding economy and increasing per capita GDP. Few South Asian countries boast a well-established domestic industry, with a strong network of over 3,000 drug companies and around 10,500 manufacturing units. It is the country with the most significant number of pharma plants compliant with US-FDA standards.


A few South Asian countries like India are widely recognized as high-quality generic manufacturers worldwide, exporting half its products to more than 200 countries. The country’s pharmaceutical industry is a leading global producer of cost-effective generic medicines and vaccines, supplying 20 percent of the total global demand by volume and 62 percent of the global demand for vaccines.


The country’s capabilities in contract manufacturing, research and development (R&D), and clinical trials make it an attractive outsourcing partner at every stage of the value chain.


As a result, the pharmaceuticals sector is poised for substantial long-term growth, and the domestic market appears to offer opportunities for global market participants seeking to diversify, expand, and introduce new products. Although it has long been a strong competitor in the industry, there are even more reasons to be optimistic, given its socioeconomic advantages.


The nation is a popular outsourcing partner for international pharma at every value chain stage due to its expanding capabilities in contract manufacturing, R&D, and clinical trials. The countries have inherent advantages over many other nations, making them capable of exploring these opportunities and having the potential to become a worldwide hub for pharmaceutical outsourcing.


South Asian countries’ appeal is thus expanding quickly in several ways, and many foreign businesses are increasing their investments there because they see India as a potential primary source of future sales. The global pharmaceutical business is changing and will undergo more soon, providing South Asian countries’ drug industry an enormous opportunity to grow.

Emerging Pharmaceutical Markets in Southeast Asia

*Short Profile of the Author:

Dr. Sanjay Agrawal

Dr. Sanjay Agrawal

Dr. Sanjay Agrawal is a leading Independent Researcher, Pharmaceutical consultant, and patent holder of more than 42 formulations.  He has actively worked in pharmaceutical and related industries for more than 35 years and started his firm Pharmaceutical Consultants and Inventor in 2005. Skilled in formulation development of Solid orals, liquids, multi-particulars, nutraceuticals, and food products. Developed and commercialized novel, adaptable, and patentable platform technologies for various dosage forms. Dr. Agrawal completed his post-graduation in Biochemistry, Post Graduate Diploma in Yoga and Naturopathy from Global Institute of Health & Management-Delhi, and MBA in marketing from IMT.


He is the Founder of Indian Academics of Pharmaceutical Research. He is the Editor-in-Chief of the renowned IJM Today and an honorable member of the editorial board of The Antiseptic and Qual Pharma Magazine. He has published more than 300 papers in reputed national and international Publications. He is appointed as an Independent Non-Executive Director of Sudarshan Pharma Industries Limited.

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