With the number of pharmaceutical manufacturing plants expected
to double in the UAE in the next five years, a number of major
players in the international and regional pharmaceutical industry
are looking to the UAE as a potential market and a regional base to
support their operations elsewhere in the Middle East, Africa and
Mr Amin Al Amiri, the assistant undersecretary of Public Health
Policy and Licensing at the UAE Ministry of Health has recently
indicated that this expansion will be unhindered by oil prices
because the economy relies on many other things "beyond
oil". The UAE's health budget is expected to be increased
from AED10.32 billion in 2015 to AED13.97 billion in 2019.
This increased focus on the development of the pharmaceutical
industry has motivated and encouraged certain international
companies to become more involved in the UAE pharmaceutical
industry. Some are looking to start obtaining the necessary
approvals from the relevant regulators to establish R&D
laboratories or manufacturing plants in the UAE.
Currently in Dubai, free zones appear to be the favourite
location for opening manufacturing facilities, with free zones such
as the Dubai Science Park being set up with a specific focus on
biotechnology and research (among other things such as renewable
energy). They provide the opportunity to establish a presence with
flexible ownership structures allowing up to 100% foreign
ownership, with potential tax benefits. Companies such as
Bristol-Myers, Pfizer and Amgen have all opened there.
If companies are interested in carrying out medicine
manufacturing activities outside the free zones, i.e.
'onshore' in the UAE, they would need to obtain a licence
from the Economic Development Department in the relevant Emirate,
as well as the UAE Ministry of Health. In the Emirate of Dubai, the
approval of Dubai Municipality would also be required. At the time
being, a company looking to carry out any activities related to the
manufacture or sale of pharmaceuticals 'onshore' in the UAE
must be set-up as a limited liability company or a sole
Companies wishing to set up as pharmacies will, in addition to a
licence from the relevant Economic Development Department, need to
obtain the approval of the Dubai Health Authority (DHA) in the
Emirate of Dubai, or the Health Authority in Abu Dhabi (HAAD) in
the Emirate of Abu Dhabi.
Although companies have reported that the lack of local talent
is a large barrier leading to increased manufacturing costs, some
international pharmaceutical companies appear to have combated this
by pairing up with existing local manufacturers who already have
the infrastructure and personnel on the ground. These partnerships
can take the form of a joint venture or a contractual partnership
Regardless of their methods of entry, pharmaceutical companies
are continuing to enter the UAE to cement themselves in a leading
pharmaceuticals hub of the GCC and wider geographical region.
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