Most formerly impoverished countries that engage in a serious round of economic reforms struggle with how and when to prioritize government spending on public healthcare.  The good news is the Vietnamese government is increasing its spending on healthcare and, perhaps more importantly, the country’s emerging consumers are driving demand for western healthcare products, as evidenced by the western brands that now populate the many pharmacies and clinics across Vietnam.  Projections are that over the next five years, Vietnam should enjoy around a 20% compound annual growth rate of pharmaceuticals.  While some of this will be driven by hospital formulary purchases, much of the growth reflects increased appetites for western pharmaceuticals by consumers.  It is estimated per capita health expenditures in Vietnam should increase from$66/year in 2008 to $116 by the end of this year.

Can Vietnam learn from China on how to more efficiently and quickly reform and modernize its public healthcare system than China has been able to?  What role – if any – does the Vietnamese government want the private sector to play in terms of creating new capacity or delivering healthcare goods and services?  Where are Vietnam’s current regulations limiting how multinationals access the market and talk to clinicians and consumers?  Which companies are doing a good job in Vietnam, and what lessons do they have to offer other firms who are either considering a venture in Vietnam, or are looking to expand what they do in the country?  In the coming weeks, we will take a look at these questions and more, all with an eye on how investors can and should think about opportunities in Vietnam’s healthcare market.