Although drug exports are showing robust growth, imports continue to dominate the Croatian pharmaceuticals market, accounting for around 50% of the sector compared to roughly 20-35% just a few years ago. This is despite government efforts to encourage domestic production, including a reimbursement system biased towards local drugmakers.

Indeed, drug imports rose 12.5% to US$405mn in the first nine months of 2005 with the market remaining heavily reliant on overseas treatments. Industry sources claim that part of the problem lies in the growing health awareness in the country, which has led to a greater demand for hi-tech foreign drugs. In addition, the appreciation of the local currency against the US dollar has made imports increasingly competitive.

Meanwhile, Croatia exported pharmaceuticals worth US$198mn in January-September 2005, up 10.2% compared to the same period last year, according to official data. This strong performance is expected to continue as economic conditions in the region improve and generics makers increasingly target markets in Western Europe and Russia. The increasing international standing of the country's leading drugmaker Pliva should help this trend.