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BRIC Countries Expected to Spend $500 Billion on Health Care This Year

by Brendon Nafziger, DOTmed News Associate Editor | October 16, 2009
BRIC includes Brazil,
Russia, India and China--
vast medical equipment markets
Middle-income countries like China and Russia will account for 37 percent of the diagnostic imaging market by 2013 -- almost the same amount as the U.S. -- according to analysts.

Market researchers at Millennium Research Group reported this week on the voracious growth in health care spending in BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China), believed to top $500 billion this year.

The growth was fueled by increasing affluence, and by the comparatively lighter impact of the recession on these countries, according to the Toronto, Canada-based firm.

As just one example of the spending spree, MRG noted that Russia earmarked over $9 billion dollars on health care, mostly to fix its network of aging hospitals.

"They're replacing lots of old obsolete systems -- ultrasounds, X-rays," Ravindra Sharma, a senior analyst who specializes in imaging and health care IT at MRG, tells DOTmed News.

China spent almost half of the BRIC sum -- $210 billion -- although Sharma notes, as with most of the BRIC countries, expenditure per capita is quite low, at only $150 per person per year, compared with the U.S., where, according to the most recent estimates drawn from 2007 by the OECD, per capita spending exceeds $7,000.

Growing markets

Nonetheless, the growth is rapid: India's health care market grew at 15 percent per year in 2005 and 2006, and now accounts for 12 percent of the BRIC total.

As for where the funds are going, Sharma says while in Russia the spending is widespread, in India, China and Brazil much of the money is headed toward rural health centers or facilities in small towns sorely needing an infusion of cash.

"Brazil has these really nice developed urbanized centers," Sharma says, "but the other places [in the country] lack many features."

Demand for equipment varies widely, too. In India, Sharma says the fastest growth is in general radiographic systems.

"Traditionally in India, doctors have been using low-frequency X-ray machines. But image resolution is lower, and it also exposes patients to a lot of harmful radiation. Now money's available. People are more affluent and more health conscious, and there's a movement to replace older machines with newer ones."

Meanwhile, Russia and Brazil are choosing more high-tech options. Russia is installing MRI scanners, a market there that Sharma predicts will grow tremendously over the next four or five years, and Brazil shows a lot of growth in CT scanner sales.

"China is growing in all markets," adds Sharma. "The Chinese market is much bigger compared to the other three BRIC countries, although the growth rate is slightly smaller than in those other countries."