Spain’s plan to become Europe’s pharmaceutical epicentre

Could Spain be the new medicine capital of Europe?

Image of medicinal capsules. Credit: nokwalai/

Spain’s footprint in the global pharmaceutical landscape is notable, ranking as the eighth-largest market in the world.

With an impressive array of 173 production sites and a €20 billion turnover, Spain’s footprint in the global pharmaceutical landscape is undeniable, ranking as the eighth largest market worldwide. However, the high degree of external dependence is still worrying.

In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, Spain saw a dramatic spike in Paracetamol usage, witnessing a 36.9 per cent increase between 2021 and 2022 alone.

Maria Jesus Lamas, the director of the Spanish Medicines Agency (Aemps), has raised alarms, stating, ‘Not a gram of paracetamol is synthesised in all of Europe,’ a statistic which underscores a critical dependency on imports.

The bulk of Paracetamol tablets available in Spain are imported from India and China, with a smaller portion coming from the United States.

Additionally, the Spanish government has identified 903 different types of medications, including amoxicillin and several antidiabetic drugs, that could face supply issues. This situation is attributed to a sudden rise in demand and the fact that production is increasingly being outsourced to other countries.

Setting the Stage for Pharmaceutical Leadership

The growth trajectory of Spain’s pharmaceutical sector is noteworthy. From a €6 billion industry in 1995 to breaking the €17 billion mark in 2021, Spain has consistently expanded its pharmaceutical manufacturing base.

Emili Esteve, the technical director of Farmaindustria, optimistically notes, ‘We have the appropriate foundations to become a major drug production hub in Europe,’ highlighting Spain’s burgeoning potential.

Pioneering Strategies for Independence

In response to the reliance on foreign pharmaceuticals, the Spanish government has initiated ambitious strategies, notably the plan to establish a paracetamol factory destined to supply the European Union.

This initiative is part of the broader 2023-2026 Strategic Plan by the Spanish Medicines Agency, which aligns with the objectives of the European Pharmaceutical Strategy. The plan focuses on enhancing the quality, safety, and availability of pharmaceutical products for society.

Crafting a Future of Pharmaceutical Excellence

The drive towards self-sufficiency in pharmaceutical manufacturing marks a pivotal chapter in Spain’s industrial narrative. With the sector yearning for clarity and direction, ‘the only thing that is needed is to have a clear roadmap, a medium and long-term strategy that gives confidence to the sector,’ Esteve reiterates, underscoring the essential steps needed to cement Spain’s status as a pharmaceutical hub in Europe.

With initiatives underway to bolster research, production, and access to medicines, Spain is not just aiming to reduce its dependency on foreign pharmaceuticals but is also striving to lead Europe in pharmaceutical innovation and manufacturing.

This vision for the future, backed by strategic investments and government support, positions Spain at the forefront of the European pharmaceutical industry, promising a healthier, more self-reliant continent.

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Written by

John Ensor

Originally from Doncaster, Yorkshire, John now lives in Galicia, Northern Spain with his wife Nina. He is passionate about news, music, cycling and animals.