Pharmaceutical pricing in emerging markets: effects of income, competition, and procurement

Health Econ. 2015 Feb;24(2):238-52. doi: 10.1002/hec.3013. Epub 2013 Nov 20.


This paper analyzes determinants of ex-manufacturer prices for originator and generic drugs across countries. We focus on drugs to treat HIV/AIDS, TB, and malaria in middle and low-income countries (MLICs), with robustness checks to other therapeutic categories and the full income range of countries. We examine the effects of per capita income, income dispersion, competition from originator and generic substitutes, and whether the drugs are sold to retail pharmacies versus tendered procurement by non-government organizations. The cross-national income elasticity of prices is 0.27 across the full income range of countries but is 0.0-0.10 between MLICs, implying that drugs are least affordable relative to income in the lowest income countries. Within-country income inequality contributes to relatively high prices in MLICs. Although generics are priced roughly 30% lower than originators on average, the variance is large. Additional generic competitors only weakly affect prices, plausibly because generic quality uncertainty leads to competition on brand rather than price. Tendered procurement that imposes quality standards attracts multinational generic suppliers and significantly reduces prices of originator and generic drugs, compared with their respective prices to retail pharmacies.

Keywords: Pharmaceuticals; emerging markets; generics; prices; procurement.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Infective Agents / economics*
  • Anti-Infective Agents / supply & distribution
  • Anti-Infective Agents / therapeutic use
  • Costs and Cost Analysis / economics*
  • Developing Countries / economics*
  • Drug Costs / statistics & numerical data
  • Drug Industry / economics
  • Drug Industry / organization & administration*
  • Drug Industry / standards
  • Drugs, Generic / economics
  • Drugs, Generic / supply & distribution
  • Economic Competition / economics*
  • HIV Infections / drug therapy
  • Health Services Accessibility / economics
  • Humans
  • Income / statistics & numerical data*
  • Malaria / drug therapy
  • Tuberculosis / drug therapy


  • Anti-Infective Agents
  • Drugs, Generic