Kazakhstan is to embark on a programme for the development of the domestic pharmaceuticals industry during 2010 to 2014, with Nurmukhambet Abdibekov, deputy minister for industry and new technologies, saying this week that only 30% of the market is currently commanded by local companies.

The aim is to increase this to 50% in the next four years. Presently, Kazakhs prefer to buy more expensive foreign drugs despite the strain on their incomes.

The measures to be taken by the Kazakh government to boost the local pharmaceuticals trade will include skills training, modernising the legal framework within which companies operate to enable them to enter foreign markets and a series of investment projects, Abdibekov said.

Serik Sultanov, the head of the industry association, Farmmedindustriya Kazakhstan, pointed to the potential offered by the customs union that Kazakhstan has joined along with Russia and Belarus, which will lead to all customs restrictions being lifted between the three countries in July 2011.

Pharma to gain access to 170m consumers

The arrangement, he added, would give the Kazakhstan pharmaceuticals industry access to a market of 170 million consumers, which some local sources have said could be worth some $17 billion in potential income.

The state-owned drugs distributor, SK Pharmacy – established earlier this year – echoed these views, saying that the union would release domestic producers from current bureaucratic restrictions.

In a statement on Wednesday, it said: “The customs union will lead to a sharp increase in mutual turnover for operators in the pharmaceuticals market [in the three countries] and will strengthen monitoring of the quality and safety of the drugs on sale.”

It added that a network of laboratories would be created to this end and that the integrated system would be analogous to that existing in the European Union.