Favorable demographics, e-commerce to drive China OTC healthcare market to $29.3 billion in 2026, forecasts GlobalData

China has rapidly emerged as one of the world’s largest over-the-counter (OTC) healthcare markets, driven by growing aging population, rapid urbanization, and the e-commerce boom. Against this backdrop, the Chinese OTC healthcare market is projected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 3.3% from CNY158.6 billion ($24.6 billion) in 2021 to CNY187 billion ($29.3 billion) in 2026, forecasts GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company.

GlobalData’s latest report, ‘China Over-The-Counter (OTC) Healthcare – Market Assessment and Forecasts to 2026’, reveals that the market will be primarily led by the ‘indigestion preparations’ category, which is forecast to grow at a value CAGR of 4.5%, followed by the ‘medicated skin’ products category with a CAGR of 4.1% during the outlook period.

Likitha Nalluri, Consumer Analyst at GlobalData, comments: “Rising health awareness in the light of the COVID-19 pandemic, growing inclination for self-medication, and easy access to OTC drugs and devices through retail pharmaceutical counters are driving the OTC healthcare market. E-commerce is a highly promising channel, especially with the National Medical Products Administration conducting pilot programs in the Beijing and Henan provinces for cross-border e-commerce import of OTC pharmaceuticals.”

According to the report, ‘drug stores & pharmacies’ was the leading distribution channel in the Chinese OTC healthcare market, followed by ‘food & drinks specialists’ and ‘hypermarkets & supermarkets’ in 2021.

Johnson & Johnson Services Inc, Huangshan Tianmu Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd., and Nin Jiom Medicine Manufactory (Hong Kong) Limited were the top three companies, and Nin Jiom Medicine Manufactory (Hong Kong) Limited and GlaxoSmithKline​ were the leading brands by market value in 2021.

Nalluri continues: “China’s large population with rising purchasing power, and government healthcare reforms and liberalization are boosting the per capita healthcare expenditure.”

As a result, the per capita expenditure (PCE) on OTC healthcare in China increased from $4.8 in 2016 to $8.6 in 2021, which was higher than the regional average ($8.1) but far behind the global average of $14.2. The PCE on OTC healthcare in China is expected to reach $10.2 in 2026.

Reportedly, the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the adoption of telemedicine, ranging from the government’s GHN and IMNC networks to private networks such as Tencent’s WeDoctor, Alibaba Health, Ping An Health, and JD.com’s JD Health in the country.

Nalluri concludes: “The ‘Internet+ healthcare’ initiative deployed to ease the burden on public hospitals during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic improved the delivery of telemedicine through teleconsultation, online drug prescription, reimbursement, and drug delivery, and virtual care. The growth of telepharmacy and remote order verification will bolster the growth of the OTC pharmaceuticals e-commerce market. The ongoing relaxation of registration processes and marketing restrictions will allow the OTC healthcare market to further take off in China.”

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