In 2016 the Turkish Medicine and Medical Devices Agency (TiTCK) implemented a localisation policy to reduce Turkey’s reliance on imports – a few years later, it has created a young, ambitious export sector.


Turkey’s experiment with mandatory localisation policies for pharmaceutical and medical products production is paying off nicely. The measures have succeeded in increasing the proportion of locally produced medicines in the Turkish market from 42 percent in 2016 to 45 percent in 2017, according to Hakkı Gürsöz, president of TiTCK. The share of the market’s domestically manufactured medtech products also climbed from 15 percent to 18 percent over the same time span. However, while the policy was initially intended to increase Turkey’s domestic healthcare independence, it may have also paved the way for the country to become an export hub in the pharmaceutical industry.


As was to be expected, the localisation policy caused a rise in contract manufacturing organizations (CMOs) and contract research organizations (CROs). At first, there were fears that the policy would simply turn Turkey into a mere sub-contracting hotbed – this has not happened, though. Rather than growing complacent, Turkish companies are utilising their regulatory protection to expand overseas.

You will not see Turkey become an area that is defined by contract manufacturing

Turgut Tokgöz, IEIS

“You will not see Turkey become an area that is defined by contract manufacturing,” explains Turgut Tokgöz of the Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association of Turkey (IEIS). “Turkey has its own industrialists, so I don’t believe we will be pigeon-holed into contract manufacturing.”


Indeed, Turkey’s industrial spirit is showing through. Adapting to the localisation process and using the recent lira devaluation to their advantage, a number of former in-licensers, CROs and CMOs have created their own R&D facilities, product lines and export portfolios. Onko Kosçel, for example, has transformed from an in-licenser of oncological drugs in Turkey to an exporter with clients all over Europe. Another is Polifarma, which expanded operations in 2011 after noticing a demand for locally produced IV solutions. Business has been so strong for Polifarma that they now have plans to increase their presence in Eastern Europe, North Africa, the Middle East and the CIS countries.


“At Onko Koçsel, we are proud to contribute positively to the Turkish economy as we continue on our path to internationalisation. Companies like Onko Koçsel are helping to reduce the pharmaceutical deficit in Turkey and strengthen the broader economy with our highly valuable products,” notes Tuğçe Koç, a board member at Onko Koçsel.


Localisation has done more than simply reduce Turkey’s dependence on imports – it has nurtured a generation of young companies that have grown strong in Turkey and have their sights set on overseas markets.