Burma - Country Commercial Guide
Healthcare

This is a best prospect industry sector for this country. Includes a market overview and trade data.

Last published date: 2021-09-27

Overview

Burma is listed as one of the poorest health care systems in the region, and to combat it, the government raised its expenditure for the health care 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, the Ministry of Health and Sports (MOHS) set an ambitious target of achieving universal health coverage by 2030 by focusing on three main elements: population coverage, service delivery, and financial protection.  To achieve the target, MOHS formed the National Health Network with the goal of providing access to better services and reducing out-of-pocket spending by Burmese citizens.  In 2019, a five-year strategic plan (2019-2023) was launched by the Myanmar Health Assistants Association to improve the public health sector in Burma by aiming to implement 12 public projects in 76 townships across the states and regions in the country, including disease control, reproductive health, maternal/child/newborn and adolescent health, and nutrition campaigns.  However, these ambitious plans have been impacted significantly by the COVID-19 pandemic and the February 1 coup.

The MOH oversees the health care sector through seven departments under its management umbrella, including the food and drug administration (FDA), human resources, medical research, medical services, public health, traditional medicine, and sports and physical education.  The country’s public health sector accounts for 86 percent of total healthcare services, with 1,120 public hospitals accommodating 56,700 beds.  There are now more than 250 private hospitals across the country, and the number is steadily growing.  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 as one of the lowest in the region, private healthcare sector expenditures are gradually increasing due to rising demand by the growing middle-class population.  Private healthcare accounts for nearly one-third of the country’s total health care expenditure.

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.  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.

Leading Sub-Sectors

Medical Services:  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 is in high demand.

Medical Technology: 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, Sanofi, Pfizer, GSK, Novartis, Roche, Bayer, Servier, and Mundipharma 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) remains a concern.   Counterfeit products are prevalent and stricter regulation and enforcement is needed to stop illegal sales.

Medical Devices:  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 FDA Announcement on Food: Burma’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released new announcements on food regulations to enhance 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.  According to the new announcement, the FDA shared detailed required testing for specific food categories, including processed baby food milk powder, cheese, and processed whole milk powder.    

In 2019, FDA implemented an online system for cosmetics and drug import registration, which saves time and reduces the risks of personal favoritism. 

Opportunities and Challenges

The most significant challenges in Burma’s healthcare sector are weak enforcement of rules and regulations and poor public health insurance coverage.  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 medicines, medical devices, and related products and accessories.  U.S. firms should consult with the Commercial Service team for detailed information.

Resources

Food and Drugs Administration, Myanmar

Myanmar Red Cross Society

Contact Information

U.S. Commercial Service

Dr. Khine Wah Lwin

Senior Commercial Specialist

Email: KhineWah.Lwin@trade.gov