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Economic impact of the pharmaceutical industry in EU

Large, diversified and global, the Pharmaceutical Industry is one of the most competitive sectors in the European economy.  More than 750,000 people work directly in the pharma industry in Europe, and indirectly generates three to four times more employment.

According to EUROSTAT data, the pharmaceutical industry is the sector with the highest added-value per person employed, significantly higher than the average value for high-tech and manufacturing industries. Is also the sector with the highest ratio of R&D investment to net sales.

Price structure

Drugs prices are regulated and vary among the EU countries. Measures for directly controlling pharma prices have commonly included negotiated prices, maximum fixed price, international price comparisons and price cuts or price freeze. Distributions margins generally are fix by governments and VAT rates applied differ significantly from country to country.

The breakdown of the retail price of a medicinal product for the European Union, as an average, is as follows: 65.6% is for the Manufacturer, 5.1% for Wholesaler, 19.2% for the Pharmacist and 10.1 % for the State (related to VAT and other taxes).


Pharmaceutical Exports & Import

Nine out of the top 10 countries that exported in 2018 with the highest dollar value of drugs were European. Germany accounted for 20 % of all EU exports (€ 69.513 Million) followed by Switzerland (€ 64 billion) and Belgium (€ 40 billion).

Total € Million Exports= 373.333 (Eurostat, COMEXT database-Feb 2018)

European countries imported more than half of the worldwide dollar worth of drugs during 2017, in second place were North American importers and close behind of the imported medicinal products were delivered to customers in Asia. More specifically, Germany was also the largest importer (EUR € 45.000 Million) followed by Belgium (EUR 34.000 € Million) and the UK (EUR 30.066 Million).


Total € Million Import= 278.462 (Eurostat, COMEXT database-Feb 2018)

Legislation and Regulation is needed for the pharma sector, many parties are involved, serious consequences can occur, concerns to the whole population and the consumer has no way to determine product quality. Imports are  increasing, medicine registration is often a major element in legislation to ensure efficacy, safety and quality. However, Europe has adopted globally standards and requirements and is an accessible market.




Mentioned before, the EU pharmaceutical sector is considered to be the high-tech sector contributing the most to the EU trade balance with a trade surplus of € 94.9 billion. Is a global industry, operates in many countries worldwide.  The statistic represents the EU as the major pharma trading partners.

At Azierta, we provide global support to access the European Pharma Market to Non-European companies. We are experts in Regulatory Affairs, Compliance and Requirement Related Services.

For further information, please visit our website European Market Access Support Services, do not hesitate to contact us in case of any doubt.




  1. International trade in medicinal and pharmaceutical products – Statistics Explained. (2019). Retrieved from europa.eu
  2. Estadísticas del sector farmacéutico.IVA-VAT aplicado a los medicamentos en Europa. Retrieved from pmfarma
  3. Cómo se regulan los medicamentos y Productos Sanitarios en España Retrieved from AEMPS
  4. Comercio internacional de mercancías- Eurostat Statistics
  5. IVA VAT aplicado a los medicamentos en Europa- Retrieved from PMFarma
  6. Building a Healthier future for Europe– Efpia Retrieved from efpia.eu
  7. Pharmaceutical industry EU trade partners– Statista

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