With its strategic location, tech-savvy population and well-connected infrastructure, the Netherlands has transformed into an international hub brimming with business potential, both in pharma and medtech. Find out in our latest blog why the Netherlands is particularly attractive for both global players and SMEs and what market opportunities await.


The “Kingdom of the Netherlands” consists of four countries: the Netherlands, Aruba, Curaçao and Sint Maarten. Most of the kingdom’s territories are located in Western Europe and comprise several islands in the Caribbean Sea. With almost 18 million inhabitants in total and 423 inhabitants per square kilometer, it is deemed the most densely populated country in the European Union (EU).

At 82.8 years, life expectancy in the Netherlands is about one year higher than in the United Kingdom (UK). Behavioral risk factors are responsible for a lower percentage of deaths in comparison to other European countries. Obesity rates, for example, are lower than in the UK. In general, adults and adolescents in the Netherlands tend to be more physically active than in the UK.

Typical health conditions found among the Dutch population, however, are similar to other industrialized countries. Malignancies are a leading cause of disease and responsible for 29.6% of deaths (in 2019), with lung cancer ranking at the top of the list. With 24.6%, cardiovascular disease is the second most common condition, followed by mental and neurological disorders.

Like many other countries in Western Europe, the Netherlands is faced with an aging society. Current forecasts predict that one in four Dutch will be over 65 by 2050. Similarly, the number of age-related health issues is also on the rise. Only 55% of Dutch citizens over the age of 75 indicate that they are in very good health. In 2019, about 42% of respondents in this age bracket reported having one or more health conditions. Osteoarthritis, in particular, is a common ailment among the elderly. Between 2011 and 2019, the number of men and women affected by the degenerative joint disease increased from about 250,000 to about 600,000 and from about 600,000 to nearly one million, respectively.

Health market

Since the reform in 2006, all adult citizens in the Netherlands are legally obliged to take out standard health insurance. Under the basisverzekering, everyone pays the same flat-fee amount for basic care, regardless of income, age, health status or gender, plus an income-related component borne by the employer. This scheme covers basic medical care, for example by general practitioners and specialists, as well as hospitalized treatment, medication and certain durable medical equipment, such as glasses and contact lenses. Part of the cost is subject to co-payment (eigen risico), with a minimum of 385 euros to be paid by the patients themselves every year.

For services exceeding basic coverage, Dutch citizens may choose to take out additional private insurance. Particularly popular insurance policies include dental care or alternative therapies such as homeopathy.

Data from 2017 indicates that, taking into account the total expenditure in the various medical areas, i.e. hospitalized care, nursing care, homes for the elderly and disabled and outpatient care facilities, the market volume amounted to around 4.7 billion euros. Around 440 million euros are already spent on medical technology alone each year, and experts predict annual growth rates to continue at 5% until 2030.

As one of the most innovative producers of medical equipment, the Netherlands is also one of the key distribution and logistics hubs for medical devices in Europe and around the world. Some 500 to 700 companies are active in the local medical technology sector. In addition to large multinational corporations, around 95% of these businesses are small and medium-sized companies, with the majority of their products destined for international export markets.


The healthcare system in the Netherlands is considered highly developed and innovative. After all, the Dutch government regularly invests substantive amounts in the health sector. Digitalization is specifically subsidized, and progress in this area is monitored in the E-Health Monitor, which has been published annually since 2013.

Nationwide Internet access and the consistent expansion of the country’s fiber-optic network, combined with a relatively affluent, well-qualified and rather tech-savvy population, create ideal conditions for the adoption of digital technologies. The Dutch tend to embrace e-health solutions, which increasingly supplement and enhance everyday medical care. For example, electronic prescriptions and electronic medical records have already been implemented as standards.

Companies will find good business opportunities in the Dutch healthcare market, specifically for medical products and digital innovations that help reduce hospitalization days and support outpatient care. The Dutch government even declared it a central health policy goal to extend the time the elderly and the chronically ill are cared for in the comfort of their own homes for as long as possible. This policy not only increases demand for home-care equipment such as stair lifts and walkers, but it also drives the need for telemonitoring apps and wearables that enable patients to remain independent and self-reliant.

Another key area in this segment is mental health: with a total of 25.1 billion euros, almost one third of all health care expenditures is incurred for the treatment of mental disorders, including the management of patients with dementia, cognitive disabilities or depression.

Legal and regulatory conditions

The Netherlands provides different options to obtain marketing authorization for medicines. One pathway is called the “national procedure”, which allows pharmaceutical companies to market the medicine solely on the Dutch market. The regulatory body responsible for the approval process is the Medicines Evaluation Board (MEB; College ter Beoordeling van Geneesmiddelen, CBG). After assessing the risk/efficacy ratio of the medicinal product, the MEB announces its decision regarding the approval of the drug.

For medical devices, different rules and regulations apply. Medical devices are products used for diagnostics and treatments or products that can help prevent or predict diseases or disorders, such as wheelchairs, surgical instruments, wound dressings and even breast implants. Software and mobile apps used for a medical purpose are also considered medical devices and must equally comply with the relevant laws and regulations.

EU-wide and international health market

In the European Union, the individual member states are responsible for developing and implementing their own national health policies. The EU provides a framework with overarching directives and regulations that must be integrated into national legislation. One example that is often cited is the Medical Devices Regulation (EU regulation 2017/745), also known as the MDR. This regulation specifies the requirements for medical devices that are distributed on the European market.

The marketing authorization for medicinal products can be granted, as described above, at the level of individual member states based on their national rules and regulations. Alternatively, pharmaceutical companies can also take advantage of the “centralized procedure” offered by the European Medicines Agency (EMA). Subject to receiving a positive opinion, this route enables marketers to get authorization for all member states of the European Economic Area (EU, Iceland, and Norway) by submitting a single application. For centrally authorized products, marketing authorization for the UK can currently also be obtained via an accelerated review procedure.

The digital transformation was officially declared an urgent responsibility in healthcare. As early as 2014, a roadmap was drafted by the Dutch government to promote e-health applications and the digitalization of the sector and to counteract the looming cost explosion and worsening of the imminent shortage of skilled healthcare professionals. Various initiatives and health deals have been initiated to subsidize innovation and support industry partnerships.


Internationalization plays a crucial role in successfully commercializing products and services in different markets, and it allows companies and institutions to benefit from the best practices developed in other regions of the world.

Translations are a vital component to accomplish this throughout the product lifecycle – be it a medical device, a drug, a dietary supplement or a healthcare service. Yet, there is one thing decision-makers need to bear in mind: only qualified translators with extensive experience, medical expertise and linguistic competence are able to convey messages and content in a way that addresses the target group appropriately and effectively.

After all, the requirements placed on the translation vary depending on whether the text is aimed at laypersons, experts, authorities, etc. Regulatory submissions, for example, must be accurate and error-free and also follow strict regulatory rules and specifications. Considering the (often substantive) investment already incurred for developing the product, it makes sense to avoid any delays in market launch caused by unnecessary corrections or revisions. Here, experienced language experts help you ensure the translation meets the specific requirements of the type of text and channel.

On the other hand, whenever consumers and patients are addressed directly, translations must present complicated scientific information in a way that is easy to understand for a lay audience. This means that the text should steer clear of medical jargon and technical gobbledygook. The content may also be intended to convince potential buyers, without using exaggerated praise. Typical examples include patient engagement websites, leave-behinds and community portals. In the sensitive medical sector in particular, translations require nuanced language, cultural adeptness and careful choice of words.

For cases like these, it may also be beneficial to commission medical translators with a background in marketing to make sure you appropriately address the specific needs of your target market. They are experts that offer the perfect combination of technical expertise and advertising skills and produce a creative adaptation tailored to the particular market and objectives, based on a detailed client brief. In the industry, this service is also known as “transcreation.”

The most important language for the Dutch market is, of course, Dutch, which is spoken and written by almost the entire population. Other relevant regional languages include Dutch Low Saxon, which is spoken by 1.8 million inhabitants in different variants, as well as various Low Franconian and Ripuarian dialects. 2.5% of the population also speak West Frisian, which is an officially recognized EU minority language.

English is the official language in the overseas territories of the Caribbean Netherlands, comprising Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba. In addition to Swedish and Danish, there is also a large immigrant community in the Netherlands, with many native speakers of Turkish and Moroccan Arabic. Other relevant languages include those from former colonies, such as Papiamento (spoken in the Netherlands Antilles and Aruba), Malay (in the former Dutch East Indies) and Sranan Tongo (in Suriname).


In the Netherlands, providers of digital healthcare products are welcomed with a favorable infrastructure, future-oriented health policies and an open-minded public, combined with a strong demand for medical innovations and digital technology that creates attractive market potential, especially for SMEs. Targeted funding programs have been implemented to support new digital developments and actively promote collaboration with international partners.

When translating documents and content intended for any area of the healthcare market, it is crucial to partner with qualified professionals with medical expertise. These experts ensure that safety is not jeopardized by translation errors, and they prevent liability risks. Strong, faultless and effective communication also underlines a company’s commitment to quality and fosters trust in the brand among healthcare professionals, patients and consumers alike – which may prove to be a key success factor in the highly sensitive healthcare market.



autor_eurotext_100Author: Eurotext Editorial Team

We explain how internationalization works, provide tips for your translation projects and outline some of the technology and processes used. We also report on current e-commerce developments and cover a range of language-related topics.