Opportunity Abounds in Emerging Markets

Abbott's medicines business in emerging markets is powered by local insight.

Strategy and Strength|Oct.16, 2018

Emerging markets represent an undeniable opportunity for innovation in medicine as growth continues to outstrip that of developed markets, and Abbott is ready to leverage its decades of understanding in these countries to improve health with life-changing technologies.

In the first half of 2018, global equity markets experienced volatility. But, emerging markets, such as India and China, displayed a healthy resilience, even outperforming their developed counterparts.

Moving forward, developing economies are expected to grow even further – the International Monetary Fund estimates 4.9 percent GDP growth for emerging markets in 2018, up from 4.7 percent in 2017.

Pharmaceutical companies that have the right focus in these fast-growing countries have an enormous opportunity.

An Environment Ripe for Innovation in Medicine

Healthcare expenditures around the world are growing faster than GDP, with recent estimates suggesting that global spend on health could rise from $8 trillion to $18 trillion in 2040.

Four billion out of the world’s seven billion people live in emerging markets – many of whom pay for their own healthcare. That’s a lot of people that need access to quality medicines. In Russia, for example, two-thirds of the population pays for its own healthcare, which means people shop for medicines like consumers.

Added to this is a growing middle class whose rising incomes allow them to afford quality. When paying out of pocket for healthcare, people tend to choose the best they can afford and gravitate towards brands and companies they know and trust.

The Key to Success? Innovation Powered by Local Insight

Abbott's pharmaceutical business is solely focused on emerging markets, which provides us a unique perspective on how improvements in medicine or access to new medicines can improve people’s lives.

We are continually talking with doctors, pharmacists and the people who use our medicines to understand their preferences and needs – so we can improve our products in ways that really make a difference.

In India, for example, thyroid diseases are a significant problem, affecting an estimated 42 million people. The treatment for thyroid disease, levothyroxine, is currently only available in tablet form. For babies, the tablet is crushed and mixed with breast milk or water for administration, which can lead to inaccurate dosing. Abbott is working to launch the first liquid version of levothyroxine in India, which will help improve accuracy, avoid spillages and reduce product contamination. While a simple adaptation, this will have a significant impact for the lives of families in India.

And we’re also looking for ways to improve not just the pill, but the experience itself. Sometimes the simplest solutions can have dramatic effects.

For example, in the Philippines, we realized that parents of children with constipation and diarrhea were struggling to convince their little ones to take their medicine. We created the Tummy Love initiative – a set of fun, educational materials like storybooks, a video game app and various memorabilia with cartoon visuals – to transform the medication ritual into a fun, interactive experience.

At Abbott, we’re focused on helping people live the best life they can through good health. Emerging markets hold enormous potential for growth and innovation in medicine, and continual improvements to medicines can make a real difference to millions of people around the world.