UAE to focus on production of low-demand medicines

To boost the local pharmaceutical industry, the UAE is producing medicines that are low in demand in the world or have been discontinued up to 25 years ago, including some antibiotics.

Earlier this month, the World Health Organisation (WHO) raised the alarm that the world was running short on antibiotics. A report showed a serious lack of development to combat the growing threat of antimicrobial resistance.

“Though we are manufacturing antibiotics, the demand is higher for chronic diseases,” said Dr Amin Al Amiri, assistant undersecretary of public health policy and licensing sector at the Ministry of Health and Prevention (MoHP).

He said that three factories in the UAE were focusing on manufacturing 24 different types of drugs for cardiovascular diseases, cancer cases and antibiotics that were low in demand in the world or discontinued 25 years ago but could lead to a shortage in the UAE.

He said that 18 types of medicines were being produced in the UAE including antibiotics in 36 manufacturing sites.

“We don’t say no to medical facilities that demand certain types of medicines. We source it for them,” he said while speaking to media on the sidelines of the two day GCC PharmacoEconomic Forum that started on Wednesday.

Jean-Paul Schweier, president and CEO of Sanofi, while commenting on the issue of antibiotics said that the company’s focus was mainly on research and development (R&D) of oncology and Aids drugs. “We do not need that many antibiotics in the world when already many cover a wide spectrum of diseases,” he said, adding that a few molecules were still being developed.

The UAE is the only country in the Middle East and North Africa that has adopted an innovative drug registration system that has introduced innovative drugs to patients in the UAE and neighbouring countries.

“Sixty-six per cent of drugs used in the country are classified as innovative,” said Dr Amiri.

“The percentage of prescription drugs is 16 per cent, while over-the-counter (OTC) is 18 per cent, which shows our flexibility to register and adopt innovative medicines that enable patients to access latest therapeutic drugs,” he said.

The UAE’s pharmaceutical industry stood at Dh9.61 billion in 2016. It took 16 per cent of the total spending in the healthcare industry. The growth is forecast at Dh14.11 billion by 2021.

“High investment is forecast, therefore, we need to rationalise and optimise spending,” he said.

There are a total of 11,495 pharmacists licensed by the ministry in the UAE and a total of 2,481 pharmacies with the biggest chunk being 946 in the northern emirates.

Dr Amiri also said that 20 innovative medicines that have received fast-track review have contributed to the enhancement of quality care of patients. These medicines include for cancer, cardiometabolic disorders, preventive care, Hepatitis C and Autoimmune Diseases.