Uruguay - Country Commercial Guide
Pharmaceutical and Life Science Products

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

Last published date: 2021-11-07

Overview

Pharmaceuticals

2018

2019

2020

2021 (est.)

Total Local Production

590

552

539

n/a

Total Exports*

227

 211

 240

260

Total Imports

 271

 272

290

321

Imports from the U.S.

29

26

22

22

Total Market Size

634

613

589

n/a

Source:  Transaction database – USD million / Uruguay XXI Reports.
*Including Free Trade Zones.

HTSUS:  2936, 2937, 2939, 2941, 3001, 3002, 3003, 3004, 3005, 3006 (pharmaceutical products) Total Market Size = (Total Local Production + Total Imports) – (Total Exports).

Pharmaceuticals are the leading industry in the life science sector.  Uruguay has a long history in pharmaceuticals and has over 30 pharmaceutical facilities.  Approximately 77% of the national production is produced for the domestic market and 23% for export markets. The workforce is highly skilled and knowledgeable, and the government has an established a transparent regulatory framework in which companies and laboratories operate. 

Uruguay’s pharmaceutical industry exports vaccines and serums, primarily for veterinary use, packaged for retail sale. Pharmaceutical laboratories are dependent on imported raw materials, principally from China, because Uruguay and other countries in the region do not produce the basic ingredient chemicals domestically. 

The United States has been the third largest supplier of pharmaceuticals to Uruguay for the last four years following Argentina and Germany.  In 2020, Uruguay’s main imports were immunologic reagents, followed by medicines.  14 percent of the pharmaceuticals imported from the United States were human vaccines, followed by veterinary vaccines at 9 percent.  Uruguay’s regulatory framework offers important advantages for logistics operations, with incentives for the installation of regional distribution centers that handle goods in transit.  In 2020, the transit of pharmaceutical products in Uruguay reached USD $670 million, which is almost three times the amount exported by the sector. This business model has grown over the last decade and has become an important option for companies serving the region.  The transit of pharmaceuticals through Uruguay shows an important flow of goods from the northern hemisphere, primarily Europe and the United States, through Uruguay to final destinations around South and Central America.  Of Uruguay’s $240 million in pharmaceutical exports in 2020, 69 percent were international companies’ using Uruguay as a regional distribution center to distribute their products.

Leading Sub-Sectors

Health IT

In 2012, Government of Uruguay created the website, Salud.uy, which is an online healthcare platform shared by multiple government agencies.  Uruguay’s Presidency, the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Economy, and the National Agency of Electronic Government (AGESIC), all coordinate the development of health IT initiatives on the platform.

The Government of Uruguay approved Decree 242/017 in September 2017, which created the National Electronic Health Record platform (HCEN). Resolution No. 1085 generated a staged-plan where forty-three healthcare providers created compatible electronic health records for their respective patients.  By the end of 2020, healthcare providers were to have registered 100 percent of patients (2.1 million people) and 90 percent of the healthcare activities such as medical studies, medical appointments, and others on the HCEN platform.

In 2019, Uruguay also implemented a National Digital Receipt, allowing patients to order prescriptions online and have the prescriptions delivered.  There is also a National Network of Image Diagnosis enabling doctors to check the results of imaging studies through any device connected to the network.

In March 2020, the government of Uruguay passed a telemedicine law to promote the healthcare IT development in the country. This law contains general regulations to support the implementation of telemedicine in Uruguay.     

Medical technology

Overview

Medical technology

2018

2019

2020

2021 (est.)

Total Local Production

n/a

n/a

n/a

n/a

Total Exports

52

55

28

29

Total Imports

96

114

97

107

Imports from the U.S.

30

44

27

30

Total Market Size

44

59

69

78

Source: Transaction database  
HS Codes: 9011;9012;9018;9019;9021;9022;9027

In 2020, U.S. products accounted for 27 percent of medical equipment imports in Uruguay, followed by China (11percent) and Germany (10 percent). Opportunities for U.S. exports in this sector include middle and high-end technology products, such as electro-diagnostic equipment and telemedicine technologies, among others. Medical institutions in Uruguay have shown interest in purchasing portable devices to improve diagnosis in rural areas or small towns located in the interior of the country.

Opportunities

Due to its geographical location, free trade zones, and legal and tax framework, Uruguay has positioned itself as a logistical hub for the pharmaceutical industry.  The free trade zones, free seaport, free airport, and warehouse regulations provide a complimentary framework for establishing distribution centers that supply medical goods to other locations in Latin America. 

Additionally, Uruguay is an attractive innovation hub for the research divisions of international companies.  Uruguay offers government support that assist life science firms who invest in Uruguay. 

Resources