The overall value of exported antibiotics declined by an average -8.6% for exporting countries since 2017 when antibiotics shipments were valued at $10.3 billion.
Year over year, the value of globally exported antibiotics fell by -5.3% compared to $$9.96 in 2020.
Technically classified as organic chemicals, antibiotics are medicaments used to fight, treat and prevent bacterial infections. Contrary to popular perception, antibiotics fail to inhibit influenza, the common cold and other viruses. In short, antibiotics are not antiviral drugs.
Key Geographic Insights for Antibiotic Exports
The 5 biggest suppliers of antibiotics on international markets are mainland China, Italy, India, Italy, Switzerland and the United States of America. Combined, this quintet of leading antibiotics exporters accounted for three-quarters (75.1%) of world antibiotics shipments for 2021.
Applying a continental lens, suppliers in Asia sold the highest dollar worth of exported antibiotics during 2021 with shipments valued at $5.54 billion or 58.8% of the global total. In second place were exporters in Europe at 34.1%.
Smaller percentages originate from North America (5.1%), Latin America (1.9%) excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean, Oceania (0.15%) led by New Zealand and Australia, then Africa (0.03%).
For research purposes, the 4-digit Harmonized Tariff System code prefix is 2609 for antibiotics.
Top Antibiotics Exporters
Below are the 20 countries that exported the highest dollar value worth of antibiotics during 2021.
- China: US$4.2 billion (44.6% of overall exported antibiotics)
- Italy: $886.4 million (9.4%)
- India: $780.3 million (8.3%)
- Switzerland: $742.8 million (7.9%)
- United States: $466.6 million (4.9%)
- Spain: $314.3 million (3.3%)
- Belgium: $303.4 million (3.2%)
- Denmark: $214.5 million (2.3%)
- Singapore: $206.9 million (2.2%)
- South Korea: $189.9 million (2%)
- Hungary: $124.5 million (1.3%)
- Netherlands: $117.8 million (1.2%)
- France: $117 million (1.2%)
- Panama: $111.7 million (1.2%)
- Japan: $102.7 million (1.1%)
- Germany: $77.7 million (0.8%)
- Brazil: $54.7 million (0.6%)
- Ireland: $50.7 million (0.5%)
- Portugal: $50 million (0.5%)
- United Kingdom: $45.7 million (0.5%)
By value, the listed 20 countries shipped 97.2% of global antibiotics exports in 2021.
Among the top exporters, the fastest-growing exporters of antibiotics since 2020 were: Panama (up 230.3%), Spain (up 26.8%), Brazil (up 22.8%) and mainland China (up 13.4%).
Those countries that posted the severest declines in their exported antibiotics sales were led by: Ireland (down -46.4%), Switzerland (down -45.4%), Belgium (down -32.5%), United Kingdom (down -27.8%), Singapore (down -27.5%) and Japan (down -27.2%).
Countries with Trade Surpluses for Antibiotics
A dozen countries posted positive net exports for antibiotics during 2021.
Investopedia defines net exports as the value of a country’s total exports minus the value of its total imports. Thus, the statistics below present the surplus between the value of each country’s exported antibiotics and its import purchases for that same commodity.
- China: US$3.9 billion (net export surplus up 16.2% since 2020)
- Switzerland: $577 million (down -52.3%)
- Denmark: $200.6 million (up 5%)
- Singapore: $183.1 million (down -3.5%)
- Hungary: $114.3 million (up 0.7%)
- Slovakia: $6.8 million (down -19.1%)
- Malta: $5 million (reversing a -$1.9 million deficit)
- Austria: $1.4 million (reversing an -$874,000 deficit)
- New Zealand: $1.4 million (reversing a -$401,000 deficit)
- Seychelles: $460,000 (reversing a -$3,000 deficit)
- Cook Islands: $29,000 (2020 data unavailable)
- Sierra Leone: $19,000 (reversing a -$36,000 deficit)
Mainland China generated the highest surplus in the international trade of antibiotics. In turn, this positive cashflow confirms China’s strong competitive advantage for this specific product category.
Countries with Trade Deficits for Antibiotics
The following countries posted the highest negative net exports for antibiotics during 2021.
Investopedia defines net exports as the value of a country’s total exports minus the value of its total imports. Thus, the statistics below present the deficit between the value of each country’s imported antibiotics purchases and its exports for that same commodity.
- India: -US$875.8 million (net export deficit up 68.8% since 2020)
- Germany: -$815 million (down -11.9%)
- France: -$456 million (up 0.2%)
- Brazil: -$320.7 million (down -2.7%)
- Vietnam: -$234.3 million (down -8.2%)
- United States: -$216.2 million (up 31.3%)
- Iran: -$212 million (up 60.9%)
- Japan: -$186.1 million (down -1.8%)
- Russia: -$171.3 million (down -3.6%)
- Bangladesh: -$166.6 million (up 12.6%)
- Pakistan: -$159.2 million (up 25.4%)
- Thailand: -$147.5 million (up 24.8%)
- Turkey: -$139.7 million (down -22.4%)
- United Kingdom: -$137.1 million (down -30.7%)
- Panama: -$136.3 million (down -3.4%)
Home to 1.4 billion people in 2021, India incurred the highest deficit in the international trade of antibiotics. In turn, this negative cashflow highlights India’s strong competitive disadvantage for this specific product category but also signals opportunities for tin-supplying countries that help satisfy the powerful demand.
Antibiotics Exporting Companies
Below are three of America’s biggest pharmaceutical businesses. Also shown is the city where the headquarters for each company.
This trio of Big Pharma companies banded together in 2021. The goal of this collective effort is to develop new antibiotics via a $1 billion AMR Action Fund.
- Pfizer (New York, New York)
- Johnson & Johnson (New Brunswick, New Jersey)
- Merck (Kenilworth, New Jersey)
Two to four newly developed antibiotics are anticipated by 2030.
See also Drugs and Medicines Exports by Country, Heart Pacemaker Export Sales by Country, Top Blood Exporters by Country and Top Iodine Exports by Country Plus Unit Prices
Central Intelligence Agency, The World Factbook Field Listing: Exports – Commodities. Accessed on November 19, 2022
Fierce Biotech, Big Pharma joins forces on $1B fund to shore up struggling antibiotics makers. Accessed on November 19, 2022
Forbes Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on November 19, 2022
International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on November 19, 2022
Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on November 19, 2022
Wikipedia, Antibiotic. Accessed on November 19, 2022