Lebanon - Country Commercial Guide
Pharmaceuticals

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

Last published date: 2020-09-29

Overview

With more than 50 pharmaceutical importers, Lebanon is the leading market for imported pharmaceutical drugs in the Levant.  The pharmaceutical market in Lebanon is valued at around $1 billion.  Patented drugs constitute around 50 percent of the market, and over-the-counter (OTC) and generic drugs constitute around 25 percent each.  Lebanon-based pharmaceutical production is weak due to high local production costs.  As a result, imports constitute over 95 percent of the total available pharmaceutical products in the market. 

According to the Lebanese Customs Authority, total pharmaceutical imports into Lebanon reached $1.242 billion in 2019, of which $147 million were imported from the United States.  Local production covers five percent of market demand and is mainly focused on manufacturing drugs under license for international companies.  Lebanon’s main sources of pharmaceutical imports are Germany (17.1%), the United States (11.8%), France (10.8%), Switzerland (10.5%), Italy (5.8%), and Ireland (6.2%).

A large portion of Lebanon’s population receives healthcare from the Ministry of Public Health, which purchases pharmaceutical from local importers, offers them to patients, and reimburses hospital bills.  High production costs, a weak regulatory framework, and counterfeit drugs are the main challenges facing the pharmaceutical industry in Lebanon. 

Given that the local financial sector has imposed strict controls on capital outflows, experts predict a major decrease in imports in general to Lebanon.  Imports in the first half of 2020 have already fallen by 50 percent compared to the same period in 2019.  With the destruction of the Port of Beirut, analysts expect imports to fall even further.  The Central Bank of Lebanon has promised to essentially subsidize (by making hard currency from its foreign reserves available) the imports of medicines and medical equipment until October 2020.

Table 4: Pharmaceuticals

 

2018

2019

2020 (Estimate)

2021 (Projection)

Total Local Production

$69 million

$65 million

$48 million

$48 million

Total Exports

$57 million

$58 million

$38 million

$38 million

Total Imports

$1.329 billion

$1.242 billion

$926 million

$926 million

Imports from the U.S.

$151 million

$147 million

$96 million

$96 million

Total Market Size

$1.341 billion

$1.249 billion

$936 million

$936million

Exchange Rates

LBP1507.5

LBP1507.5

LBP1507.5

LBP1507.5

(total market size = (total local production + imports) - exports)

Units: $ U.S. Dollars, LBP Lebanese Pounds

Source: Lebanese Customs statistics –Chapter 30

Leading Sub-Sectors

According to local experts, U.S. pharmaceutical products have an advantage over European and Asian products in the biotechnology, high-tech, anti-cancer, and cardiovascular fields.  Moreover, new leading American drugs that are not yet manufactured in Europe are typically well received in Lebanon.

Opportunities

There are no specific opportunities or trade events in Lebanon geared to promote U.S. pharmaceutical products.  The U.S. Commercial Service provides a wide range of services including, Gold Key Service (GKS) and International Partner Search (IPS), which help U.S. companies explore opportunities in Lebanon.

Web Resources

Ministry of Public Health

Lebanese Customs Administration

U.S. Commercial Service

Contact for the Commercial Section that covers the pharmaceuticals/drugs sector: Naaman Tayyar, Head of Commercial Section, Email: Naaman.Tayyar@trade.gov.