Middle East Pharma Markets Continue to Soar: Here’s Why?

Both the regional pharmaceutical market and the healthcare sector at large in the MENA region continue to show impressive growth numbers.

Both nationals and expatriates have more sophisticated healthcare needs. Medical awareness and health consciousness are on the rise. Government programs have shed light on lifestyle and genetic diseases in the region and a few preventive programs have been rolled out in areas such as breast cancer, cardio-vascular disease and particularly diabetes and cancer.

The regional population is growing at a high rate. Although still proportionally young, improved mortality rates and life expectancy have led to an increase in ageing population. Insurance companies and Pharmaceutical players are establishing basis to provide both their services and products.

These developments have created investment opportunities for several players ranging from capital and investment funds to private equity and VC players and to public/private partnerships.

It is estimated, based on a report published in Gulf Business in late 2012, that these opportunities have created across the GCC an investment injection amounting to USD 125 billions by 2015.

From a pharmaceutical market perspective, a recent IMS report has estimated that the Middle East markets are expected to grow from $16bln in 2013 to 26bln in 2017. This 12-14% growth rate is amongst the highest in the world. With Europe and the US growing at an average of 2-5% per year, this is a clear reflection that opportunities now have shifted from mature to emerging markets, in particular to the Middle East, Asia and Latin America.

Most Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) governments have rolled out healthcare programs to increase access to medicine and general health awareness. Both Saudi Arabia and the UAE are in the driver’s seat, Saudi being the largest market and UAE the fastest growing.

Pharmaceutical players, in particular the generic and branded generics are seeing very high growth. This has opened the door for several local and regional players considering setting up their own pharmaceutical plant in the region and using the GCC as a platform from which to export to Africa and the CIS countries.

Nevertheless, due to several factors, the region has a high prevalence for some rare and genetic diseases.

The global market for rare disease and orphan drugs was at $84.9 bln in 2009 with an estimate of $112bln by 2014.

It is estimated that more than 2mio people in the Middle East suffer from a rare disease.

Based on the Center of Arab Genomic Studies (CAGS) there are 774 recorded phenotypes caused mainly by recessive genes.

Governments have provided reimbursement for their nationals in the GCC region, allowing hospitals to import medication for patients diagnosed with a rare disease. This offers a significant opportunity for rare disease products in the region.

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