The government continues to make progress with its plans to privatise parts of Kuwait's healthcare service, in an attempt to reduce the burden on public healthcare facilities. It has already started a trial service, whereby expatriates and nationals are allocated separate appointment times at hospitals, and by the end of 2013, the government was to have reviewed this trial and whether or not it should be rolled out across the country. Given the size of Kuwait's expatriate population, the opportunities for private healthcare insurers are considerable. In terms of pharmaceuticals, Kuwaiti residents expect to have access to innovative drugs, and the strong regulatory environment means that it is an attractive market for pharma firms, but the small size of the country holds back demand. Kuwait simply does not have the power to purchase large quantities of innovative drugs at competitive prices, and as such, it is keen for a unified drug purchasing and/or pricing system across the Gulf region. The details of this are likely to be agreed in November 2013, with health ministers from across the Gulf meeting in early 2014 to endorse the price list. If approved, this will give Kuwait access to innovative drugs at more reasonable prices.
Headline Expenditure Projections
- Pharmaceuticals: KWD301mn (US$1.07bn) in 2012 to KWD334mn (US$1.22bn) in 2013; +14.2% in local currency terms and +13.7% in US dollar terms. Forecast raised slightly from Q413.
- Healthcare: KWD1.31bn (US$4.68bn) in 2012 to KWD1.52bn (US$5.42bn) in 2013; +16.3% in local currency terms and +15.8% in US dollar terms. Forecast raised from Q413.
Kuwait scored 58.5 in BMI's Pharmaceutical Risk/Reward Rating (RRR) for Q114; a slight improvement in its score from Q413. Kuwait has also risen up the rankings this quarter, rising to second place, behind Saudi Arabia, out of a total of 30 markets.
Key Trends And Developments
The second round of bidding for a share in the Kuwait Health Assurance Company, held in July 2013, attracted several bidders. These include Kuwait Projects Company, Agility, Al Essa Medical Equipment and Yiaco Medical Company.
In October 2013 the Kuwaiti Health Ministry revealed it had created a list of 30 countries whose nationals will have to undergo medical tests every time they return to Kuwait after visiting their home countries. The ministry aims to curb the spread of diseases with such tests, but has instead created controversy, with the alleged inclusion of a test for homosexuality.
Figures published in the Diabetes 2013 Atlas Updates show 23.1% have diabetes - making Kuwait the second-ranked country for diabetes prevalence in the Middle Eastern region.
BMI Economic View: We expect to see moderate economic growth in Kuwait, with real GDP of 3.0% in 2013 and 2.9% in 2014. Oil production will rise, if only slightly, and domestic demand should continue to be strong,
BMI Political View: Politicians have suggested that the government is considering reviewing its generous subsidy scheme, worth around US$16bn per year. And while this is necessary, it is unlikely to be popular with Kuwaitis used to low-priced fuel, education, food and housing.