The Market Profile of the Belgian Pharmaceutical Sector: Trends and R&D leadership

The latest official estimation of the value of the Belgian pharma market, published by the Federal Agency for Medicines and Health Products (FAGG or FAMHP) in 2014, discloses the market value of 2012 and provides the net value as 4.49 bln Euro.

This total had been very similar since 2010, and is likely to have remained similar or merely decreased slightly by 2015. TforG estimates a slight decrease due to the prevalence and growth of the generic medicine market. The total value is subdivided into a pharmacy (or ambulant) share and a hospital market share.

Ambulant pharmaceutical consumption contributed the largest share with 3.12 bln Euro, and the hospital consumption accounts for 1.37 bln Euro. Accordingly, the out-patient, i.e. ambulant share, was substantially larger than the non-ambulatory part, and equal to 69.5 percent of the total pharmaceutical market value.

The reimbursed drugs represent the largest share of the ambulant market, both in terms of value at 74.2 percent of total ambulatory market value, as well as in volume at 51.2 percent.

Regarding the value of the out-patient medicine market:

  • 24 percent were reimbursable medicines
  • 09 percent were over the counter non-reimbursable medicines
  • 67 percent were other non-reimbursable medicines with prescription

Regarding the volume of the out-patient medicine market:

  • 26 percent were reimbursable medicines
  • 08 percent were over the counter non-reimbursable medicines
  • 94 percent were other non-reimbursable medicines with prescription

Although the hospital share is by far smaller than the ambulatory contribution, it has been growing significantly more in comparison.

New pharmaceutical drugs, defined as being introduced into the market less than five years ago, represented 8.7 percent of the ambulant market of reimbursable drugs, and 12.6 percent of the reimbursable drugs in the hospital market. The overall trend reveals a decrease in the volume and value of the new pharmaceuticals within the market.

The pharmaceutical industry in Belgium provides over 135,000 jobs directly and indirectly. The direct job provision accounts for 35,000 of the above mentioned total, which accounts for 0.7 of the total employment market in Belgium. In comparison, Denmark’s pharma industry employs 0.5 percent of its population directly, France’s pharma industry employs 0.3 percent, and the USA’s employs 0.2 percent directly.

Regardless of recent dips in the global and domestic economy, the pharmaceutical industry in Belgium did not decrease their investments into jobs and R&D. Yearly over 2.35 bln Euro is invested into R&D, which accounts for 40 percent of the total sum of private sector investments in the country. Belgium was running over 1,500 clinical trials in the previous year, which in fact ranks it as the number one in Europe and number two in the world in regards to clinical trials per capita. These clinical trials facilitated free treatment and access to new therapies for over 170,000 patients.

The success and productivity of the pharma sector is greatly enabled through the model of collaboration that Belgium has created, where academic institutions work together with pharmaceutical enterprises of all sizes. Many small to medium sized companies currently operating in Belgium actually originated as academic pharmaceutical projects that found economic and market merit by being a separate commercial entity.

The Belgian efficiency and extent of collaboration ranges from clinical trials to transportation, where even the international Brussels Airport has invested substantially to enhance its capacity in order to manage the transportation of sensitive products that are required for the trade and development of the pharma market.

The pharma industry exported 39.95 bln Euro in 2014 (an 8.9 percent increase from 2013), equivalent to 11.2 percent of the total export value. Belgium is the second largest exporter of pharmaceutical products in Europe, the third largest holder of biopharma patents, the fifth largest pharmaceutical industry employer and the fourth largest pharma manufacturer in Europe.

The strong trade position and high export performance created a trade surplus of 7.8 bln Euro in 2014.

The FAGG is the authority in regards to pharmaceutical and alternative medicines in Belgium. and is responsible for:

  • Research and development initiatives
  • Licenses and registrations to trade
  • Inspection and controls
  • Production and distribution
  • Vigilance
  • The appropriate use of medicine and other health products

There has been a reduction of domestic healthcare expenditures in the past three years. The healthcare sector most affected has been the pharma sector, which experienced zero to negative growth rates in regards to public expenditure. This has been attributed in part to the increase of the generic market share. However, since the Belgian pharma industry as a whole continues to thrive, this reflects its successful position in the global market and its ability to continue creating new patents and innovative solutions that generate revenues and interest within and beyond the national borders.


For further quantitative information on the Belgian healthcare system and the macroeconomic climate, please look into our Business intelligence platform or order the TforG Deep Dive report for Belgium containing volumes of 620 surgical procedures in 13 specialisms.

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