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Medicines Unveiled: Understanding the Key Players in Pharmaceuticals and API Export-Import

4 Sep, 2023

In today’s dynamic economy, the pharmaceutical export-import sector serves a multitude of global trade activities that mainly consist of pharmaceuticals and Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (APIs). These crucial API compounds form the core of drug manufacturing and are gathered worldwide to create safe, effective medications for all kinds of treatments and ailments.


Pharmaceutical export-import trade can be measured in terms of its quality, quantity, and where they are needed the most. Since medications are meant for human consumption, there is immense pressure to create secure and high-quality pharmaceuticals from key APIs after strict quality checks. Here are the top-ranking Pharmaceuticals & API Exporters and Importers around the world.

1. United States of America

In 2021, the USA was the highest ranking Pharmaceuticals and API importer and the 3rd largest exporter in the world at a record $516.65 billion. With a population of 3.31 million and counting, it is no surprise there is a rise in all-round medical necessities.

2. China

At nearly $171 billion, China ranks in second place when it comes to medicine production and trade. This East Asian country holds a majority of an aging population that survives on generic drugs and APIs. It also has stricter drug approvals than other countries making trades difficult.

3. Japan

Japan is the third largest country in pharmaceutical export-import trade. Similar to China, this Asian country also holds an increasingly aging population making it a top exporter of pharmaceuticals and APIs from the USA.

4. Germany

As the largest pharma import-export market across Europe at $64.4 billion, Germany is the biggest exporter of medicines with over 1.43 million people employed and contributes $103 billion to the pharmaceuticals and API trade.


5. Ireland

Ireland is the fifth biggest exporter of pharmaceutical products in the world at over $62.68 billion thanks to its low corporate tax systems. This brought Pfizer Inc., Merck & Co., Johnson & Johnson and more to establish their manufacturing facilities here.

6. Switzerland

Switzerland holds nearly $55.85 billion in medicine production across the world. It contributes 5% to the GDP of the country through employment and R&D.


7. France

France's markets are stringent and contribute 30% of pharmaceutical sales while they try to overtake rivals China and India in manufacturing APIs.


8. Italy

According to the 2021 medicine production reports, $44.31 billion is spent on Italy’s pharmaceutical import-export needs. This European country employs most of its population and works under the regulatory frameworks of the Italian Medicines Agency (AIFA).


9. India

India holds more than 10,000 pharmaceutical manufacturing facilities and is the biggest contributor to generic drugs in the world. It also holds the highest manufacturing approvals from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).


10. Belgium

The pharmaceutical and APIs industry spends nearly $1.64 billion on R&D alone which equals nearly 40% of all private investments in Belgium. It is in the top five exporters of medicine production at $34.8 billion across the world.


Ensuring quality across borders

Countries like the UK, Spain, Brazil, Canada, South Korea, and the Netherlands are also key players in the pharmaceutical export-import trade through viable environmental, economic, and social factors. In a nutshell, the pharmaceutical EXIM system is like a global teamwork. Different countries contribute, ensuring that the medicines produced are top quality for consumption.