Dubai is home to both local and international healthcare and pharmaceutical companies. BMI research forecasts that the UAE’s pharmaceutical and healthcare sector is expected to grow by over five per cent in 2018 to Dh65.68bn, reaching Dh78.13bn by 2021. According to the Pharmaceutical Research & Manufacturers Association Gulf Forum the pharmaceutical market alone in the UAE is expected to grow from Dh9.61 billion in 2016 to Dh14.11 billion by 2020, with key drivers including increased healthcare spend, mandatory health insurance and growing medical tourism.

Madhukar Tanna, CEO of Pharmax Pharmaceuticals, explores the reasons behind the recent boom in the UAE’s pharmaceutical sector and how Dubai is becoming a hub for innovation in healthcare.

A main point of discussion at CPhI Middle East and Africa, which took place between 3 – 5 September in Abu Dhabi, was innovation and the future of healthcare and pharmaceuticals in the UAE. The focus on the emergence of the UAE as a major pharmaceutical manufacturer and exporter is not a new one.

In 2014, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, launched Dubai Plan 2021 to reinforce the emirate’s position as an international leader across a number of sectors. This followed the November 2014 announcement by the UAE Government that 2015 would be the ‘Year of Innovation’, promoting the UAE as a global pioneer in innovation and the introduction of the ambitious National Innovation Strategy.

June 2016 saw another strategic framework announced by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum with the launch of Dubai Industrial Strategy 2030, further driving Dubai to become a global platform for knowledge-based, sustainable and innovation-focused businesses. Among the six priority sectors identified in the strategy are pharmaceuticals and medical equipment, due to its importance to Dubai Plan 2021 and future growth potential.

The term innovation is often associated with Research and Development and the launch of new medications. However, innovation also encompasses finding improved methods of delivering existing treatments. For example, replacing an injectable with an oral dose, or substituting an oral tablet with a patch. By offering patients alternative routes to administration, we can improve the patient experience and increase the likelihood of patients remaining compliant with their recommended courses of treatment.

As the patents expire on medications, manufacturers, such as Pharmax, have the opportunity to mass-produce generic alternatives. The Food & Drug Administration defines generic medication as a drug product that is comparable to a brand listed drug in dosage form, strength, route of administration, quality and performance characteristics and intended use. Generic medications are more affordable than name-branded alternatives, making them a more attractive alternative for insurance providers and sufferers of chronic illnesses where long-term treatment is indicated.

In addition to generic forms of medications, complex generic forms are a focus for both the region and Pharmax. Complex generic medications provide higher margins when compared to generics, further incentivising local manufacturers to seek out innovation in the delivery of treatments.

The UAE Government’s vision for innovation and growth in the key targeted sectors, including pharmaceuticals and medical equipment, has opened the doors for local pharmaceutical companies to establish themselves in the region. A key milestone was the requirement of mandatory health insurance for all residents. Access to universal healthcare has increased demand for affordable medications used in the treatment of chronic illnesses.

Historically, the UAE has relied on the importation of medicines from the international market. However, with government-support for local manufacturers, including Pharmax Pharmaceuticals, local companies have a unique opportunity to produce locally-manufactured medications and treatments and enter the market.

Private sector pharmaceutical manufacturing companies are also being encouraged to seek out and create partnerships at every level of the sector. In addition to equipping its new state-of-the-art facility with European-sourced equipment, Pharmax is entering into technology agreements with world-class pharmaceutical companies with a view to offer patients in the UAE and GCC medications with improved delivery systems.

When Pharmax was in the very early stages of its establishment, we considered only one location for our headquarters – Dubai. When looking at the requirements for launching and running a successful pharmaceutical manufacturing business, Dubai Science Park (DSP) was a perfect fit. DSP’s commitment to creating an ecosystem that promotes innovation is perfectly in-line with Pharmax’s long-term vision. In 2015, DSP and its task force partners identified five prime areas for innovation in the local healthcare sector, including complex generics.

In adherence with the efforts of the UAE Government to transform the UAE into one of the most innovative countries in the world, the UAE is taking great strides towards becoming a leading global healthcare destination, offering best practices in patient care and locally-produced medication. The collaboration between the private sector and the Ministry of Health and Prevention has resulted in the number of UAE-based pharmaceutical manufacturing companies increasing from 14  to 18 between 2014 and 2017. This number is expected to reach 36 by  2020, according to Dr Ameen Hussain Al Amiri, Assistant Undersecretary for Public Health Policy and Licensing at the Ministry while addressing a workshop organised by the ministry and regulatory experts from the European Medicines Agency.

As the UAE continues to reinforce innovation across all sectors, Pharmax supports Dubai’s vision to become an international hub for pharmaceutical manufacturing, supplying not only the UAE but also the wider GCC and further afield.


Keywords: #Pharmaceuticals #PharmaceuticalIndustry #MedicineManufacturing #AffordableMedicine #Generics #DubaiSciencePark #DubaiPlan2021 #DubaiIndustrialStrategy2030


Social Media: Madhukar Tanna, Pharmax Pharmaceuticals CEO, explores the steps Dubai is taking to become an innovation hub for pharmaceutical manufacturing.


About Pharmax Pharmaceuticals:


Pharmax Pharmaceuticals provides access to affordable, branded generic medication. Committed to exceeding the expectations of healthcare providers, practitioners and patients, Pharmax offers a diverse range of medications across a wide range of therapeutic areas. Headquartered in Dubai, UAE, Pharmax is a GMP-licensed international manufacturer and distributor of high-quality medications into most regulated markets globally. Pharmax is committed to maintaining a culture of quality and its state-of-the-art facility meets stringent local and global regulatory standards.

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