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Can Pharma Reign in Spain? Part 1

Spain Posted on: 23 Dec 03


As with most major pharmaceutical markets, patient demand for the latest innovative products has helped drive growth of the Spanish pharmaceutical market.

The UK, France, Germany and Italy represent about 18% of the global pharmaceutical market (1) and have therefore been the European countries that the international pharmaceutical industry has paid most attention to, but over the last ten years, companies have taken a greater interest in Spain. During the 1980s and 1990s, the Spanish national healthcare system underwent major changes and its coverage was extended to all citizens. As healthcare spending has increased and patient demand has grown, Spain has become an attractive location for the pharmaceutical industry.

The Spanish pharmaceutical market

Spain currently occupies fifth place in Europe and seventh in the world in terms of volume of pharmaceutical sales (2, 3). Between 2001 and 2002, the Spanish pharmaceutical market grew by over 10% and is predicted to maintain a double-digit growth rate over the next five years (3).

Although Spain has been considered as one of the lower-priced European countries for pharmaceuticals, prices for innovative new products are rapidly converging with those of neighbouring countries (4). In 2002, a total of 185 new pharmaceutical products were launched in Spain, of which generics represented 55% (4). The average price of innovative therapeutic products was €13.72, which was considerably higher than the average price for existing medicines (€6.43). As with most major pharmaceutical markets, patient demand for the latest innovative products has helped drive growth of the Spanish pharmaceutical market. In 2001, the percentage market share for new medicines in Spain, was higher than corresponding figures for the UK, France, Germany, Italy and Switzerland (1).

Cost containment

In recent years, the government has tried to slow expenditure on pharmaceuticals through cost containment measures. During 2002, a total of 661 million Social Security-financed prescriptions were dispensed at Spanish pharmacies, which represented a 6.4% increase over the previous year (4). The average increase in cost of these prescriptions in 2002 was 3.3%, which was an improvement over the 5% to 7% average cost increase seen in previous years (4). Despite its cost containment measures, in 2003 the government failed in its aim to maintain the rise in pharmaceutical spending at 9% (3). Tougher cost containment measures will be unpopular with the pharmaceutical industry and if they reduce patient access to newly launched  medicines they will not gain the support of the public.

Demographic concerns

A major demographic consideration which will drive further healthcare spending is the increase in the elderly population. The provision of healthcare for the elderly has become an important issue for industrialised countries such as Spain, as the government shares much of the expenditure on medications. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the over 65-age group require four times as much healthcare resources as younger people (5). Spain is in a particularly difficult position as it has one of the fastest ageing populations. This rise coupled with a decreasing national birth rate will place greater pressure on the Spanish government to fund healthcare. Pharmaceutical companies will face demand from patients with disorders that predominantly affect the elderly to develop new treatments and market them at costs that are socially acceptable.


  1. IMS Health World Review 2001.
  2. The Pharmaceutical Industry in Figures (2002). European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industry Associations.

  1. Anon (2003). Spain takes the bull by the horns. IMS Health. October 2003.

  1. The Pharmaceutical Industry in Figures (2002). Farmaindustria.

  1. Gerdtham, U-G., Jönsson, B., MacFarlan, M,. Oxley, H. (1995). Factors Affecting Health Spending: A Cross-Country Econometric Analysis, in New Directions in Health Care Policies: Improving Cost Control and Effectiveness. Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Paris. OECD/GD (94) 101.

Dr Faiz Kermani

Last updated on: 27/08/2010 11:40:18

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