Pharma industry sees robust growth ahead in UAE

Growing population and income have led to increased demand for pharmaceutical products in the UAE

Robotic arm holding test tube in the laboratory. Image used for illustrative purpose.

Robotic arm holding test tube in the laboratory. Image used for illustrative purpose.

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The global and UAE pharmaceutical market have experienced growth as increasing demand has been accompanied by scientific advances leading to product innovation with newer and potentially more useful medicines. This supply and demand side growth in the overall market has been accompanied by development of niche markets which are estimated to have experienced relatively fast growth, says a latest analysis by Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry

Sales in the UAE pharmaceutical market are estimated to have been valued at around $3.1 billion by 2018. Market size is estimated to have increased from around $2.4 billion in 2015. The majority, around 86 per cent of total pharmaceutical sales in 2018, were sales of prescription medicines. The UAE is estimated to have imported around Dh14.9 billion worth of products as part of pharmaceutical products (HS 30) from the world market in 2018, according to data from the UAE Federal Customs Authority.

Major sources of imports in 2018 included Germany, USA, France and Switzerland. UAE business are also estimated to have exported around Dh1.2 billion and re-exported around Dh3.8 billion worth of products in pharmaceutical products (HS 30) to the world market in 2018.

Major export markets include Saudi Arabia and Iraq while major re-export markets in 2018 included Kuwait, Iraq and Bahrain, according to data from the UAE Federal Customs Authority.

UAE businesses are also engaged in manufacturing of pharmaceutical products. For example, production of medicines in Dubai Science Park covers medications targeting cardiovascular diseases, psychiatric and neurological disorders and gastroenterological diseases. There are also businesses engaged in manufacturing of generic medicines in the UAE.

Taher Shams, managing director, Zulekha Healthcare Group, said healthcare providers are working towards raising their benchmarks of medical expertise and improving services as the days go by. "With the advent of newer improved minimal invasive procedures and advancements in high-risk treatments, the demand for innovative pharmaceutical products has increased. Continued support from the pharma sector to learned professionals and well-equipped healthcare facilities is essential in ensuring the best patient experiences."

The niche markets like halal pharmaceuticals, mHealth and development of orphan medicines could provide potential opportunities across the pharmaceutical value chain. While some UAE businesses could specialise in the development of these kinds of medicines, other business could also potentially benefit from local distribution and sales of newly develop medicines in the UAE market.

Positive factors like, growing population and income have led to increased demand for pharmaceutical products in the UAE and around the world. On the supply side, scientific advances have also led to making medicines to treat new illnesses.

"As the nation becomes more conscious of health with such focus from governments around the UAE and the media, patients are becoming more empowered to take control of their health," Jobilal M Vavachan, CEO, Aster Pharmacy and Aster Clinics, said.

"Patients with long-term health conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease are able to make more informed decisions about their treatments - patients request new innovations to support their lifestyles, not just through prescription medication but also lifestyle support such as supplements to provide holistic health. It becomes more sustainable to support patients with customised therapy; this personalisation increases medicine compliance and overall health, ultimately working towards keeping them out of front-line care."

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