Increased government spending on and access to innovative medicines can help production by Turkey's pharmaceutical industry soar from a value of $5 billion in 2011 to $23.3 billion by 2023, says a new report.

Such supportive policies could also enable the nation to become a net exporter of drugs by 2023, with an export surplus of more than $1 billion compared with a foreign trade deficit of $4.1 billion last year, and annual R&D investments of around $1.7 billion, says the report, which has been produced by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) for the Turkish Association of Research-Based Pharmaceutical Companies (AFID).

The Turkish Ministry of Science, Industry and Technology’s own Pharmaceutical Sector Strategy aims for the nation to become, by 2023, one of the global top 10 health service economies, by increasing R&D spending to 3% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and boosting the value of exports to $500 billion. By that date, its goal is also for the country to be the Eurasian production base for medium- and high-level technology products.

"Taking into account Turkey's current macroeconomic conditions, political stability and increasing economy efficiency," AFID says it considers these R&D targets to be "realistic."

However, the PwC report emphasises that Turkey has to improve its competitive position internationally. Currently, the nation lags behind other "pharmerging" national such as Brazil, Russia, India and China in terms of global pharmaceutical investment, with the 2011-12 World Economic Forum's Global Competition Index ranking it in 59th place out of 142 countries, while Brazil is at 31, Russia at 38, India 35 and China 47.

The Turkish pharmaceutical sector is ranked 16th worldwide by market value but it is 36th in terms of clinical research and exports, and accounts for just $60 million, or 0.039%, of the $120 billion spend globally on innovative drug R&D each year, it adds. 

PwC puts forward an export-focused action plan to develop Turkey's pharmaceutical industry into a global R&D and production centre and regional shared service centre location. For this to happen, there has to be agreement on the formulation and implementation of a long-term policy to support innovation in the field of health sciences that awards the highest priority to R&D and value-added drug production, it says, adding that the government must also provide grants that support innovation and implement regulations that protect intellectual property rights (IPR).

Also, it says, a legal and administrative framework which balances the concerns of public health and the pharmaceutical sector is needed, and this must include:
- a "current and realistic" budget that can sustain pharma sector growth. Turkish patients' access to health care and pharmaceuticals has increased significantly, as has the percentage of the population with health insurance. However, the budget allocation for public drug spending has decreased since 2009, and drug spending as a share of GDP has dropped to 1.11%, considerably below the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) average of 1.50%. Budget expenditures should match the growing healthcare needs of the country, and pharma spending as a percentage of GDP needs to be increased to 1.35%, says PwC; and

- improved access to medicines, to ensure that Turkish patients can benefit immediately from innovative drugs once they are on the market. It is "imperative," says the report, that the government streamline the processes and procedures for drugs entering the marketplace - through Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP), timely registration, effective pricing and reimbursement - to ensure that drugs become available to Turkish patients in a time-frame comparable to other developed countries.