Burma is listed as one of the poorest healthcare systems in the region, and to combat it, the government raised its expenditure for the healthcare sector and set up three National Health Plans (NHPs). Aware of numerous challenges and needs in the sector, including shortage of health care providers, poor data collection, and unreliable health insurance policies, NHP 2017-2021 has laid out ways toward achieving Universal Health Coverage (UHC) by 2030 by focusing on three main elements: population coverage, service delivery, and financial protection. The main goal of goal of NHP 2017-2021 was to extend access to a Basic Essential Package of Health Services (EPHS) to the entire population by 2020 while increasing financial protection. Therefore, the Ministry of Health (MOH) developed a step-wise plan to attain UHC by 2030 - to have a Basic-EPHS by 2020, an intermediate-EPHS by 2025, and a comprehensive-EPHS by 2030. To achieve these targets, MOH formed the National Health Network with the goal of providing access to better services and reducing out-of-pocket spending by Burmese citizens. However, this ambitious plan has been impacted significantly by the COVID-19 pandemic and the February 2021 coup. Burma’s healthcare system has deteriorated with the post-coup political and administrative changes.
On August 1, 2021, the SAC reconstituted the regime’s Ministry of Health and Sports as the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Sports and Youth Affairs. The MOH oversees the health care sector through six departments under its management umbrella, including the Department of Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Department of Human Resources for Health, Department of Medical Research, Department of Medical Services, Department of Public Health, and Department of Traditional Medicine. The country’s public health sector accounts for 86 percent of total healthcare services, with 1,152 public hospitals accommodating 56,700 beds. International Non-Governmental Organizations and local Non-Governmental Organizations such as the Myanmar Red Cross Society, the Myanmar Maternal and Child Welfare Association, civil society organizations and community-based organizations, including ethnic health organizations, also deliver public healthcare services.
There are more than 250 private hospitals across the country. Private hospitals operate primarily in the larger cities and provide selected services to rural areas. In addition, there are approximately 200 private specialist clinics, more than 5,000 private general clinics, and 800 private dental clinics, according to a report by the Department of Medical Services. While public health expenditure ranks one of the lowest in the region, private healthcare sector expenditures are gradually increasing due to rising demand, mainly from the expanding middle-class population under the prior democratic government. Despite the economic impact of the coup, private healthcare expenditures are expected to increase in light of growing healthcare awareness.
People living in remote areas, which account for approximately 70 percent of Burma’s total population, lack adequate health knowledge, access to providers, and a reliable electricity supply, which is essential for the operation of medical equipment and storage of vaccines and medicines. The primary treatment options for people living in remote areas are rural health centers, sub-rural health centers, and small private clinics. On the other hand, approximately 500 patients from wealthy populations fly out of the country daily to seek higher quality health care abroad. Thailand stands as the number one destination, followed by India, Singapore, Malaysia, and Hong Kong. For low and middle-income consumers, medical treatment abroad remains out of reach.
Following the coup, thousands of doctors and healthcare providers joined the civil disobedience movement, which crippled the healthcare system. The lack of health care workers delayed Covid-19 prevention and control mechanisms and other vaccination programs, and COVID-19 surveillance slowed with limited testing capacities.
COVID-19 in Burma
Beginning in April 2022, there have been around or less than a hundred positive cases daily. According to WHO, from 3 January 2020 to 15 June 2022, there have been 613,460 confirmed cases of COVID-19 with 19,434 deaths. As of 24 May 2022, a total of 59,453,155 vaccine doses have been administered. According to Johns Hopkins University data, 43.51% of the population is fully vaccinated. The average daily administered dose in Burma is 243,986. View Covid-19 travel notices and CDC guidance.
Under the previous civilian-led government, Burma’s healthcare sector improved significantly, mainly in the preventive care areas, including H.I.V., malaria, and tuberculosis prevention programs. Currently, the Burmese healthcare industry is facing a significant shortage of facilities, technology, and qualified nurses and healthcare professionals. People who can afford high-quality medical services travel to neighboring countries for medical check-ups and treatment, spending approximately $600 million per year. This points to a massive need for reliable and high-quality medical services in the country. The government permits foreign medical professionals to work in Burma through joint venture businesses. In addition, U.S. health education providers can find business opportunities in Burma since training and capacity-building services for medical staff are in high demand.
Burma lags in the medical technology area, from poor patient data records management to advanced diagnostic treatment methods. Limited internet connection coverage in remote areas hinders telehealth services.
Medicines: Burma has a very competitive pharmaceutical market compared to other ASEAN countries, and the market is attracting a growing number of foreign pharmaceutical companies and is dominated by imports. Burma imports about 80 percent of pharmaceutical products from other countries. Local supplies are mainly produced by the state-owned Myanmar Pharmaceutical Factory. According to a local market research agency, Burma’s total pharmaceutical spending has been increasing 11 percent every year, and it is expected that the pharmaceutical market value will reach $1.1 billion by 2023.
There are more than 100 pharmaceutical distributors currently operating in Burma. Switzerland’s DiethelmKellerSiberHegner (DKSH) and Thailand’s Maxxcare are leading the distribution channels. Other drug distribution/pharmaceutical brands such as Zuellig, Abbott, Bayer, Eisai, GSK, J&J, Novartis, Pfizer, Roche, Sanofi, and Servier are in the market. In addition, there are many generic brands from India, China, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Thailand, and Vietnam, with significant market shares. The market itself is very price sensitive, and Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) remain a concern. Counterfeit products are prevalent, and stricter regulation and enforcement are needed to stop illegal sales.
The country presents tremendous business opportunities for U.S. exports of medical equipment and supplies. Burma’s private health sector depends on imported medical equipment and supplies to meet the increasing local demand for high-quality health services.
Currently, the 1992 National Drug Law is the only legislation in effect, and it does not cover medical devices. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has been drafting rules and regulations to regulate the use/production of medical devices in collaboration with the U.S. Agency for International Development and other NGOs.
2020 Burma FDA Announcement on Food: Burma’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced new food import/export regulations to improve consumer safety and satisfaction. On top of 2018 FDA announcements on the National Food Law Amendment (24/2013) and Infants/Baby Milk Substitute Products Marketing Regulations (22/2014), FDA publicized “the Minimum Requirement(s) of Laboratory Parameters for Food Safety” on their website in April 2020. In 2019, the FDA implemented an online system for cosmetics and drug import registration, saving time and reducing the risks of favoritism. Under the new procedures, importers must submit a Certificate of Analysis (COA) for specific food categories. Under the new policy, the Ministry of Commerce provides an updated list of products and requirements for important licenses. Please visit for information in import licensing and the Burma FAIRS Annual Country Report at for import procedures. The government website provides announcements on import/export regulations and procedures.
Opportunities and Challenges
Given overall needs throughout the healthcare sector, Burma offers significant export opportunities for U.S. firms, especially in medical services, technical expertise, and medical devices, such as diagnostic activities in hospitals and clinics, pharmaceutical production, healthcare infrastructure, and the establishment of private medical institutes and training facilities. There are opportunities for U.S. manufacturers that supply medicine, medical devices, and related products and accessories. U.S. firms should consult with the Commercial Service team for detailed information.
The most significant challenges in Burma’s healthcare sector are weak enforcement of rules and regulations, poor public health insurance coverage, and a shortage of healthcare providers. Many healthcare product importers have faced obstacles regarding the importation and registration process. The regime’s Ministry of Commerce and the Ministry of Health released new regulations, including Import Health Certificate (IHC) requirements for every shipment, including detailed chemical and microbiological testing recommended by The Food and Drug Administration, in addition to the Drug Registration Certificate (DRC) and Drug Importation Approval Certificate (DIAC) requirements. The U.S. Commercial Service advises U.S. firms to check with local distributors/partners and reputable legal firms for detailed information.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
Foreign Agricultural Service (USDA)
U.S. Commercial Service
U.S. Embassy, Burma