Pharma Outlook in the MENA region: an insider’s view


By Simon Wentworth


Genpharm spied a strategic opportunity in rare diseases, linked to the fact that many countries in the region  have high levels of inter-family marriage, leading to a higher prevalence of certain rare genetic disorders.

Mr Smaira, who was previously the regional VP for for Merck KGaA, can testify to the importance of regional sensitivity to avoid losing opportunities.

“We try to cluster the countries in three groups. We treat the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) as one entity. Another would be the near east, or the Levant, plus Egypt and Iran. Finally, you have the North African space. But even within these sub-groups there is diversity.”

“Here, people tend to do business with people they like. You need first to establish a personal relationship, before you can open the door for business to be done.”


Demographic changes point to strong market growth ahead. There is a young and expanding population, coupled with an older segment beginning to demand innovative medications for diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.

Looking forward, Mr Smaira is positive about the prospect for continuous growth.

“You have a more educated population, which is linked to greater interconnectivity with the world in terms of social media. This means patients are demanding better healthcare services.”

“Another element driving growth is the fact that, due to the drop in oil prices, governments are often no longer able to provide full service, so you see a trend towards privatization – more clinics and specialty care, but also more privatized reimbursement schemes.”

With growth overall estimated at between 9% and 11% annually, MENA can truly be regarded as the next frontier of pharmaceutical investment and expansion.

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