International trade in medicinal and pharmaceutical products
From Statistics Explained
- Data from October 2010. Most recent data: Further Eurostat information, Main tables and Database.
The European Union (EU) was by far the major world trader in medicinal and pharmaceutical products (SITC division 54) in 2009, with total trade amounting to EUR 123.3 billion. Exports made up 65 % of this trade. The United States occupied the second position for trade in these products, at some distance, with trade worth EUR 74.9 billion.
Over the period 2000-2009, the United States was the main trading partner for extra-EU (EU-27) exports of these products. Both export and import trade more than doubled over the period and, in 2009, the USA accounted for 35 % of all extra-EU-27 trade.
Switzerland was the main trading partner for imports, with a growth of 174 % over the period 2000-2009. In 2009, Switzerland accounted for more than a fifth of all extra-EU-27 trade in these products.
- 1 Main statistical findings
- 2 Data sources and availability
- 3 Context
- 4 Further Eurostat information
- 5 External links
Main statistical findings
EU-27 trade in medicinal and pharmaceutical products rose by 11 % in 2009, in spite of the global economic crisis
Increases in both exports and imports
In 2009, contrary to global economic trends, extra-EU-27 trade in medicinal and pharmaceutical products grew for both exports and imports. Exports, which had dropped slightly in 2008, rose by 10%, while imports rose by 13 %.
The total value of extra-EU-27 trade in these products more than doubled over the period 2000- 2009 from EUR 52.1 billion in 2000 to EUR 123.3 billion in 2009.
Trade was dominated by exports, which were almost the double of the value of imports for every year from 2000 to 2009. The EU-27 trade surplus in this category varied between EUR 15.3 billion in 2000 and EUR 37.3 billion in 2007.
Increased trade with the United States and Switzerland in 2009
The United States stands out as the EU-27’s main trading partner every year over the period 2000-2009.
The value of EU-27 exports to the United States increased by almost 150 % between 2000 and 2007, before dropping slightly in 2008. In 2009, values increased by 10 %.
Switzerland was the second largest EU-27 export partner in 2009, albeit at only about a third of the level of exports to the United States.
In 2009, EU-27 exports of medicines (SITC 542), including veterinary medicines, amounted to EUR 59.6 billion and accounted for 74 % of all EU-27 exports of medicinal and pharmaceutical products. This was made up by a wide variety of medicaments. Exports of medicinal and pharmaceutical products other than medicaments (SITC 541) amounted to EUR 20.5 billion; the largest single product group was antisera, blood fractions, modified immunological products and vaccines (SITC 54163), with 13 % of total exports.
Switzerland and the United States were the largest EU-27 trade partners also on the import side, together accounting for 79 % of the imports of these products in 2009. EU-27 imports from Switzerland increased by 174 % over the period from 2000 to 2009; by 2007 Switzerland had overtaken the United States as the leading import partner.
With 58 %, medicines made up a larger share of imports than other medicinal and pharmaceutical products. However, also for imports the largest single product group was antisera, blood fractions, modified immunological products and vaccines, making up almost 24 % of the imports of these products.
Strong growth for Belgium for both exports and imports
Amongst the EU-27 Member States, the five largest exporters of medicinal and pharmaceutical products together accounted for 72 % of these exports in 2009. The leaders were Germany and Belgium who together accounted for 36 %.
The United States was the most important export partner for all of these five leading Member States in 2009; together, they accounted for 87 % of all extra-EU-27 exports of medicinal and pharmaceutical products to the United States.
For imports, the picture was more differentiated. The six largest EU-27 importers together accounted for three quarters of the extra-EU-27 imports of these products in 2009. Germany was the leading importer among the Member States.
Switzerland was the most important import partner for Germany, France and Italy, while the United States was the most important import partner for Belgium, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.
Data sources and availability
EU data are compiled according to community guidelines and may therefore differ from national data published by Member States (see International trade data - ESMS file).
Data source: Eurostat’s free dissemination database; for non EU-data (Figure 2) United Nations’ COMTRADE database. A code (such as ‘DS_018995’) is inserted as part of the source. This hyperlinked code allows the reader to easily access the most recent data on the Eurostat website. The data on the website is frequently updated and may also be more detailed or have a different measurement unit.
Reporting countries: EU-27: Belgium, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Estonia, Ireland, Greece, Spain, France, Italy, Cyprus Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Hungary, Malta, the Netherlands, Austria, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia, Slovakia, Finland, Sweden and the United Kingdom.
The "Rotterdam effect": Extra-EU imports of some Member States (e.g. Netherlands), and therefore their trade deficit, are overvalued because of the so-called ‘Rotterdam effect’. Goods destined for the rest of the EU arrive in their ports and, according to Community rules, are declared as imports by the Member State where these goods are released for free circulation. This in turn reduces the extra-EU imports to those Member States to which the goods are re-exported, as these shipments are recorded, for Community statistics, as arrivals from the Member State where these goods are released for free circulation, rather than imports from an extra-EU partner.
Division 54 'Medicinal and pharmaceutical products' of the Standard international trade classification revision 4 (SITC Rev. 4), is made up of the sub-groups:
- 5411 ‘Provitamins and vitamins (not put up as medicaments)’;
- 5413 ‘Antibiotics (not put up as medicaments)’;
- 5414 ‘Vegetable alkaloids (not put up as medicaments)’;
- 5415 ‘Hormones, prostaglandins, thromboxanes and leukotrienes’;
- 5416 ‘Glycosides; glands or other organs; antisera, vaccines;
- 5419 ‘Pharmaceutical goods, other than medicaments’;
- 5421 ‘Medicaments containing antibiotics’;
- 5422 ‘Medicaments containing hormones, etc., but not antibiotics’;
- 5423 ‘Medicaments containing alkaloids, but not containing hormones etc. or antibiotics’;
- 5429 ‘Medicaments not elsewhere specified’.
Pharmaceutical products are among the most important products within the chemicals sector (SITC section 5). Besides machinery and vehicles, the chemicals sector is the only product group where the EU posts a trade surplus. The surplus reached EUR 83.1 billion in 2009.
The pharmaceutical industry is one of the largest sectors in the European Union, accounting for 3.5% of total manufacturing production. Pharmaceutical companies in the EU employ approximately 633,000 employees.
The most common trade impediments faced by pharmaceutical exporters are a range of burdensome and costly registration, licensing and certification procedures. The EU aims to redress these through its bilateral trade agreements or by tackling individual barriers as part of its market access partnership.
Further Eurostat information
- EU-27 trade in medicinal and pharmaceutical products rose by 11% in 2009 in spite of the global economic crisis - Statistics in focus 63/2010
- International trade, see:
- International trade detailed data (detail)
- EU trade since 1988 by SITC (DS_018995)
Methodology / Metadata
- International trade (ESMS file)