2020 Edition


Though dwarfed in terms of size by neighbouring Germany and France, Belgium is a truly multifaceted nation with a life sciences industry that punches well above its weight. Despite a comparatively modest EUR 5.4 billion domestic market in 2019, exhibiting only 2.4 percent year on year growth, Belgium produced EUR 49.8 billion worth of biopharmaceutical exports in 2019, creating a positive trade balance of EUR 7.2 billion and contributing to 38,500 high value and 82,000 indirect jobs.

The nation’s output in terms of life sciences R&D is similarly impressive, ranking first in Europe in terms of volume of R&D investment per inhabitant and as the second most prolific clinical trials market in Europe for volume of trials per capita. Belgium makes up only 2.2 percent of the EU’s total population but a full 12.5 percent of all pharma investments.

This exclusive new report examines how Belgium has been able to cultivate these impressive numbers and establish itself as the ‘Pharma Valley of Europe’, famed for the quality and breadth of its medical research, the scale and complexity of its manufacturing infrastructure, and its multilingual, highly skilled, and industry savvy talent pool. It also looks at the wide variety of pharma multinationals who have chosen to situate regional headquarters, strategic hubs, as well as R&D and manufacturing sites in the country.

Other topics covered include how the country’s domestic market has evolved since the 2015 ‘Pact for the Future’ between industry and government, the impact of wide-ranging hospital network reforms, the continuing issue of low generics penetration, and much more.

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Maggie De Block

Former Minister of Social Affairs, Public Health and Asylum & Migration

Dear members of the international healthcare community,

In a society where the aging population and the number of chronically ill people are increasing and technology is evolving at lightning speed, an important challenge for healthcare policy is to make care services more accessible to all patients while maintaining sustainability in the long term. This is a monumental task to take on in budgetary times, therefore, a unified effort among all stakeholders from across the healthcare value chain is critical for reforming the system and preserving the best interest of patients. We must eliminate waste and abuse, consult with the field, work together and work step by step in a targeted manner.

I want our citizens to have access to the latest treatments and medicines. This means that we must continue to invest in the quality of our healthcare, but at the same time we must keep an eye on the affordability of the system. In addition, I also want to strengthen the pharmaceutical industry in our country. Belgium is world class in clinical research into innovative medicines and we want to maintain that unique position.

Therefore, in 2015 the ministry signed a Future Pact with the pharmaceutical industry for the patient containing important agreements for the coming years with the aim to achieve a win-win situation for everyone: the patient, the government and the pharmaceutical industry.

Comprised of the four pillars of accessibility, growth and innovation, deontology and budgetary sustainability and predictability, the Pact highlighted the mutual ambition for transparency and predictability, allowing the pharmaceutical industry to continue its investment in the development of new medicines. While the initial four-year period of this agreement has come to an end, I hope we can make a new pact to keep the budget under control and support investments in new treatments, in the interest of the patient.

Furthermore, solidarity and international collaboration among our European peers is the key to tackling healthcare challenges, especially in pricing as the cost of innovation continues to rise. In 2019, together with eight European colleagues, we launched the International

Horizon Scanning Initiative (IHSI) as a way of joining forces to prepare for the arrival of new and often very expensive medicines. By sharing all possible information about new medicines and medicines under development via a central database, we can better anticipate challenges, set priorities, and negotiate better prices for social security. Our goal is to provide the best treatment for the patient, in the best possible time frame and at the best possible price for the patient.

With the Belgium Healthcare & Life Sciences Review 2020, I invite all members of the global pharmaceutical and healthcare communities to take a close look at the promising advancements that Belgium is making and to consider how they can leverage the opportunities which exist here to support our healthcare vision.

Warm Regards,


Maggie De Block

Former Minister of Social Affairs, Public Health and Asylum & Migration

Featured Content
Cover Story
The Multifaceted

Squirreled away in the lowlands of North West Europe and somewhat dwarfed by the mighty neighbouring pharmaceutical powerhouses of Germany and France, one could easily be forgiven for overlooking Belgium’s zesty life science ecosystem. At first glance, the numbers certainly appear more steady than thrilling: a EUR 5.4 billion domestic drug market registering respectable, but frankly modest 2.4 percent year-on-year growth.

Facts & Figures

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2020. Healthcare & Life Sciences Review was produced by Pharmaboardroom.

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Report Director: Crystelle Coury
Senior Editor: Patrick Burton, Louis Haynes, Karen Xi
Publisher: Diana Viola
Graphic Designer: Miriam León


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