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Better living through chemistry

The pharmaceutical market in Panama is extremely dependent on imported products, which make up 90% of the whole, while the remaining percentage is made up of locally produced and distributed drugs (8%) and labeled and processed products in the country (2%), especially in the Colón Free Trade Zone. The pharmaceuticals industry in Panama moves more than 30 million units in the country every year, which together make up more than USD300 million. Of this total, 60% is acquired and distributed by Panama’s social security fund Caja de Seguro Social (CSS), while the remainder is mainly sold in the local network of pharmacies and drugstores.

According to Colegio Nacional de Farmacéuticos de Panamá, there are 300 global pharmaceutical companies operating in Panama, distributing around 5,000 products not only within Panama but also throughout the region and beyond. Three years ago, the Contralorí­a General de la República confirmed that imports of pharmaceutical products came up to a total of USD305 million, excluding veterinary and technical medical equipment. The country, meanwhile, exported pharmaceuticals to the tune of USD19 million, the majority of which pass through the Colón Free Trade Zone. Locally, leading Panamanian pharmaceutical producers Medipan, Rigar, Lafsa, Prieto, San Rafael, and Palm are striving to compete with multinational companies such as GSK, which have identified Panama as a strategic hub to expand and consolidate their operations in Central America. “We do not just have commercial operations for pharmaceutical and consumer products based here but also a manufacturing plant that employs around 300 people,“ commented Monica Shaw, GSK cluster head. “In addition, we have a demand hub and a warehouse that supplies products to Latin America. We also have an R&D hub for vaccines that runs studies for new vaccines and post introduction across the whole of Latin America. We have always had an established infrastructure within Panama; however, there are certain new facets of Panama that make it an increasingly appealing place to do business.“

Another new player in the regional market, Acino, remarked on the strategic importance of Panama to the expansion of its operation in Latin America. Stefan Bellinghausen, Regional Director Latin America at Acino, told TBY, “We are making important investments in the region, such as establishing new legal entities in Panama and Ecuador. We are also bringing in more products to the region and investing in continuous medical education. We want to extend the reach of our Swiss-based quality products across the region. There is great demand and a great perception of our products not only in Panama but also in the entire region.“

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