Latin America and the Caribbean: Opportunities for healthcare and life science businesses – DBT at MEDICA

Latin America and the Caribbean: Opportunities for healthcare and life science businesses

For over 40 years MEDICA has been a seminal event in the calendar of healthcare professionals. It is one of the world’s largest healthcare trade fairs where suppliers, manufacturers and buyers can meet to find out more about the latest MedTech equipment and devices; support for digital health; materials for the lab and diagnostics. The worldwide exhibitor map on the MEDICA website illustrates the global reach of the event and shows only those with a booth notwithstanding the expected 80,000 delegates.

Why consider Latin America and the Caribbean?

This conference is particularly special as it allows you to discover new opportunities that may previously have seemed out of reach whether by distance or familiarity. One of these locations for potential expansion for UK companies is Latin America and the Caribbean (LATAC). A diverse and exuberant part of the world spanning two continents. Those who have done business in this region see the long-term benefits in investing in the relationships and the future growth.

Comprised of more than 30 countries, home to over 650 million people and according to the World Bank in 2022, 9% of the region’s population is over 65 years old increasing from 6% in 2000. Non communicable diseases (NDCs) are also on the rise which require higher quality and more medium to highly complex medical treatments alongside public health interventions.

Taking into account the themes and specialisms of MEDICA’s attendees, here are some brief overviews of the principal markets in LATAC, and why UK companies should plan for growth in LATAC.


The largest healthcare market in LATAC that includes a universal healthcare system Sistema Único de Saúde, more commonly known as SUS, and in 2022 spent almost 10% of its GDP on health. Medical and pharmaceutical products were the second most imported good from UK to Brazil (over £260 million in four quarters to end of Q1 2023) and this trend is unusual.

Speaking generally, Brazil has a tendency to be quite protectionist in its approach to foreign goods and to prefer a local version or offer. However, in this sector it is common to import goods into Brazil and the country is open to international medical devices. To export to Brazil, UK companies need to register their product with ANVISA (the Brazilian regulatory authority) and only companies established in Brazil can apply, which is why working with a local distributor or agent is essential.

Of the main themes at MEDICA, medical devices, diagnostics and digital health are important in Brazil and where these correspond to government priorities such as the strengthening of SUS; the National Immunisation Programme; telemedicine; women’s health, and NDCs these are particularly attractive to Brazilian buyers.


This sophisticated although much smaller Mercosur neighbour to Brazil is often seen as an entry point to the Southern Cone and is characterised as an import reliant market in this sector. It is important to note that the Uruguayan Ministry of Health regulates the import, commercialisation, and use of pharmaceuticals, medical devices, special purpose foods, and chemicals through sanitary registries and the new Health Technology Agency is in charge of the evaluation of sanitary technologies areas such as cardiology devices (implants, pacemakers, prosthesis); oncology devices; electro diagnostic and scintigraphy devices; orthopaedic items; branded or high research and development (R&D) content and telemedicine are particularly attractive products for consumption in Uruguay.


Similar in population size to Uruguay and viewed as the Hub of the Americas, Panama is a strategic place to do business. Most of the healthcare facilities are concentrated around Panama City and from here companies can operate across Central America. Panama is home to the prestigious Gorgas Memorial Institute for Health Studies, dedicated to researching tropical diseases and preventive medicine as well as the eagerly anticipated City of Health that will be ready this year. This is a huge group of healthcare facilities, including robotic surgery, that will require many supplies in the coming years. Like Costa Rica, Panama receives numerous health tourists and with considerable international communities alongside local populations, it has a diverse offering of healthcare from private and public providers. Panama also has the highest expenditure on public health in Central America at 5.9% of GDP. Solutions for haemodialysis; laboratory materials; RX equipment maintenance are all in high demand.

English Speaking Caribbean

As well as a shared language with the UK, the Caribbean relies heavily on importation to meet local demand making it arguably more open to working with international partners. In 2022, under the HS code 9018, (instruments and appliances used in medical, surgical, dental or veterinary sciences), imports to Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries were 21 times greater than those they exported. The main opportunities are in digital health and medical devices with Aid Funded opportunities in the region from the World Bank, IDB, CDB, USAID. At the risk of generalising the main governmental priorities are environmental health, strengthening health systems; chronic NDCs and their prevention; mental health including substance abuse, family health, food and nutrition, and human resource development. Although each country is different and has their own rules and regulatory agencies; there are no laws regulating medical devices in Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, and Barbados.

DBT LATAC Supporting UK Firms at MEDICA

This is only a snapshot of the potential for partnerships in LATAC. Other key markets in LATAC include Colombia, Mexico and Peru and with the UK Government’s Department for Business and Trade (DBT) having expert officers that support UK businesses to operate in these countries.

Med Tech company, Paxman Scalp Cooling, share the benefits of support received; “Attendance at global, sector-specific events, Meet the Buyer and Trade Missions were a key part of Paxman’s export strategy from the beginning, as well as drawing upon the support of regional experts and mentors within the sector. Working alongside trusted partners in-market has been fundamental to Paxman’s success, not only in the LATAC region but also the rest of the world, leveraging their local insight and maximising opportunities.” For the full case study, see Paxman Scalp Cooling in the LATAC Region.

At MEDICA 2023, DBT staff based in Uruguay (covering the Southern Cone – Argentina and Paraguay); Panama (covering Central America); Brazil and the Caribbean will be in attendance. Meet them to find out more at the Medilink stand Hall 16 / H03- K16 and the DBT stand Hall 16 / H03.

Medilink will also host a presentation at its booth, ‘Doing Business in LATAC’ on Monday 13th November at 14:00-14:30. This is a great opportunity to speak with the DBT LATAC team in person and ask your questions about the markets in this dynamic part of the world.

If this has piqued your interest and you want to learn more about healthcare in LATAC or doing business more generally contact: [email protected] and for more information about Medilink contact [email protected]

We look forward to helping your business take the next step.

About the Department for Business and Trade

We are the UK’s department for economic growth. We support businesses to invest, grow and export, creating jobs and opportunities across the country.

We are responsible for:
• Redrawing our rules to ensure businesses thrive, markets are competitive and consumers are protected.
• Securing investment from UK and international businesses.
• Advising, supporting, and promoting British businesses to grow and export.
• Opening up new markets for businesses by removing barriers and striking trade deals.
• Promoting free trade, economic security and resilient supply chains.

To see how the Department for Business and Trade can support your international expansion plans and sales growth, visit

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Hambleton,I; Caixeta, R; Jeyaseelan, S. M; Luciani,S; Hennisb A. J. M. ‘The rising burden of non-communicable diseases in the Americas and the impact of population aging: a secondary analysis of available data’ The Lancet Regional Health – Americas 2023;21: 100483, Published Online 31 March 2023 (accessed 09/10/2023) (accessed 09/10/2023)

Alleyne, Antonio & Lorde, Troy. (2014). A Gravity Model Approach to Analyzing the Trade Performance of CARICOM Member States. Applied Econometrics and International Development. 14. 145-160.

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