HEALTHCARE | Staff Reporter, China

Myanmar's healthcare spending backed by investments, policy support

ADS approved a $30m loan to boost the country's COVID-19 response.

Healthcare spending in Myanmar is projected to grow from $3.9b (MMK5.91t) in 2019 to $14.98b (MMK29.05t) by 2029, underpinned by increased investment and government initiatives, according to Fitch Solutions. This translates to a compound annual growth rate of 17.3% in local currency terms.

Mirroring the actions of regional peers, the goal of achieving universal healthcare was reaffirmed by the announcement of the National Health Plan (NHP) in 2017. The main goal of the NHP is to extend access to a basic essential package of health services to the entire population, and to increase financial protection.

"Among the highlighted policy objectives, the commitment to roll out universal healthcare in the country has the greatest potential to reshape the sector, with significant implications for both pharmaceutical and private healthcare providers," the report stated.

The Asian Development Bank also approved a $30m loan in October to boost Myanmar’s response to the pandemic, especially in areas with a high minority population with inadequate access to healthcare and other essential services.

The loan was made for investments in 31 district and township hospitals across the country, including improving clinical care and management, infection prevention control, and human resource capacity to help the health system respond to the pandemic and to future public health threats.

However, pharma companies will continue to face challenges, as health indicators are weak compared to other countries in the region and globally. According to the World Health Organization, there are 6.1 doctors per 10,000 people in the country, compared to 11.9 in Vietnam, 19.5 in Singapore, and 23 in Japan.

Mortality rates and life expectancy have also been improving, but accessibility to healthcare is still hampered by healthcare provider shortages particularly in rural and remote areas; poor infrastructure and transport; and a lack of equipment, resources and drugs.

The rollout of universal healthcare (UHC) will provide volume growth opportunities for the sector, but amidst an increase in treatment affordability and demand for healthcare services, drugmakers will have to face the changing landscape of the industry, particularly a shift toward more generic drugs.

"Myanmar will hold significant opportunities for pharmaceutical companies with low-cost drugs. Moreover, while the country's large unmet medical needs will provide commercial opportunities for pharmaceutical firms, there needs to be a significant improvement in basic resources and political stability to attract multinational drugmakers," the report added.

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