The COVID-19 pandemic outbreak in early 2020 may have triggered additional growth of United Arab Emirates (UAE) pharmaceuticals market as this Western Asia country appear to have ridden on the crisis to expand its vaccine manufacturing capabilities with support of partners including Chinese medicament producers such as Sinopharm.
UAE’s Chamber of Commerce says the COVID-19 pandemic triggered shortages in the supply of Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (APIs) and chemical ingredients used in pharmaceutical production. (1)
This interruption of APIs supply the Chamber said informed current and future procurement strategy of these ingredients especially for the local manufactures of pharmaceutical products to avert supply chain disruptions should similar situations emerge in the future.
Since 2020, UAE’s pharmaceutical market has experienced growth both in the expansion of its manufacturing capabilities and unveiling of measures to strengthen the countrys role in the global medicaments space.
A 2020 deal between Sinopharm and UAE’s G42 to partner in vaccine trials within the Emirates thrust the Middle East country into a new role as a supplier of vaccines and other healthcare products to the region including North Africa. (2)
UAE was initially one of the preferred countries in the Middle East for clinical trials of two COVID-19 vaccines developed by Sinopharm CNBGs two institutes, Beijing Institute of Biological Products (BIBP) and Wuhan Institute of Biological Products (WIBP ).
Six other countries including Bahrain, Morocco, Egypt, Jordan, Peru and Argentina were picked for the trials after the June 2022 launch of Phase 3 of the COVID-19 vaccine in UAE.
The UAE and Bahrain were among the first countries to approve registration of the Sinopharm CNBGs inactivated vaccine with the Chinese company saying at the time of registration, the vaccines protection rate had exceeded the minimum target of WHO.
According to Pharmax Pharmaceuticals, UAE-based vertically integrated pharmaceutical company that produces and markets branded generic medication, the UAE pharmaceutical market has been steadily growing as more global industry players sign partnership agreements with local pharmaceutical produce producers and distributors. (3)
UAE’s Federal Customs Authority says in the first half of 2020, the country’s imports of pharmaceutical products reached AED 8.2 bn, which was 18% higher than 2019-H1. (1)
During the same period, UAE re-exported around 22% of its imported pharmaceutical products valued at AED 1.8 bn, having grown at a double-digit of 14% growth rate compared to same period in 2019.
Dubai Chamber of Commerce says UAE also exported locally manufactured medicines worth of AED 0.42 bn in the first half of 2020, a 6% increase compared to the previous year.
Moreover, the UAE posted a 4% increase in the volume of medicines imported from the rest of the world in the first half of 2020 to 24.2 thousand tons according to the Chamber.
Nearly 33% of the imports, equivalent of 8 thousand tons were re-exported.
Leading exporters of pharmaceutical to UAE include Germany, with a share of 16%, slightly ahead of the USA (14%), France (9%), Switzerland (8%), Italy (6%) and Ireland (6%). The shares of other countries, including China and India were less than 6%
The top 10 countries from where UAE sourced pharmaceuticals accounted for around 77% of the total imports of the country in the first half of 2020.
UAE’s participation in the global pharmaceutical industry has been boosted by the countrys involvement in a number of international and regional treaties on patent protection, including the World Intellectual Property Organisation Convention, the Patent Cooperation Treaty, the Paris Convention and the Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights that govern the registration of patents in pharmaceuticals. (4)
The country’s pharmaceutical industry is regulated by the Ministry of Health, through its Registration and Control Department. The department is responsible for the overall regulation of biologicals and combination products in the UAE.
Prior to importation and distribution of any pharmaceutical product, UAE requires the importers to comply with the country’s Pharmaceutical Law by registering all the products with the Ministry of Health.
Furthermore, all pharmaceutical manufacturers must be licensed by the Ministry before the products they manufacture and distribute are registered in the UAE market.
Growth of the UAE pharmaceutical market looks bright if the performance of the sector in the last five years is a good parameter to go by.
For example, a report by macroeconomic, industry and financial market analyst BMI, estimates UAE’s pharmaceutical and healthcare sector to have growth by more than 5% in 2018 to Dh65.68bn (USD 17.9 billion), reaching Dh78.13bn (USD 21.27 billion) by 2021.
Pharmax Pharmaceutical in a resport quoting the Pharmaceutical Research & Manufacturers Association Gulf Forum, says UAE’s pharmaceutical market may have grown from Dh9.61 billion (USD 2.6 billion) in 2016 to Dh14.11 billion (USD 3.84 billion) by 2020, with key drivers including increased healthcare spend, mandatory health insurance and growing medical tourism.
Elsehwere, UAE’s pharmaceutical market has also reported increasing partnerships between local manufacturers and international companies since 2019 such as the agreement between GSK + Neopharm GSK with Neopharm entailing the production, secondary packaging, and supply of GSK’s six most prescribed medicines within the Emirates. (5)
Similar partnership has recently been reported between Biocad + Julphar Biocad and Julphar targeting the UAE’s oncology market through a license and supply agreement.
Elsewhere, Merck has in recent past announced a partnership with Neopharm to manufacture in the UAE Merck’s branded medication as well as expand the distribution capabilities across the Middle East. This is the first multinational company to work with a local manufacturer and cater to regional demand through exports from its UAE manufacturing facility.