Country Report: UAE - Pharmaceutical Executive


Country Report: UAE

Pharmaceutical Executive


Jihad Hussami, managing director of Eastern Europe, Middle East & Africa for Hill-Rom
One of the main challenges that still lurk for pharmaceutical companies in the UAE is mostly tied to the lack of a scientific and research base in the country that is reflected in the lack of market data. This issue is acknowledged by the government, who has understood that without such metrics it is difficult to gauge health outcomes and the pharma-economics of specific products. Over the last couple of years authorities have been trying to implement advanced IT systems in order to catch up and capture in figures the results of their healthcare policies so far.

"The UAE is shifting the way they basically have been doing healthcare. Over the last few years the country has witnessed major changes in the implementation of healthcare IT solutions. Abu Dhabi now processes all prescriptions electronically, as well as all reimbursement transactions. Dubai is similarly moving in this direction, which means there is a lot of data that is available on these systems", states Omar Ghosheh, CEO and founder of Dimensions Healthcare. As informatics experts, Dimensions has become the sole provider of pharmacy ­benefit management (PBM) and E-claims ­solutions for the DHA, and also works closely with HAAD in improving their IT platforms. The company was nominated as the top performing SME in Dubai in 2011, and is well on track to revolutionize healthcare in collaboration with the authorities.

Waclaw Lukowicz, ceo of Middle East for Siemens Healthcare
"Both Abu Dhabi and Dubai are aggressively installing IT systems to increase the control and monitoring of pharmaceutical products as a means to improve their healthcare systems. They will be looking for health outcomes; they will be monitoring drug consumption, to then determine where their strengths and weaknesses lie. Maybe in two years time Dubai will have a real example of how healthcare outcomes will be integrated into the entire decision-making process that will ensure quality standards and sound ­pharma-economics. It's all very exciting", concludes Ghosheh.

Latching on to the movement towards IT and e-technologies, Bayer Healthcare has been moving to digitalize much of its interactions with customers and health practitioners. Certainly e-Health is a global trend, but Bassem Abdallah explains why it makes plenty of sense in the UAE:

"This is probably one of the regions where such initiatives are most effective when estimates claim that there are 2.3 cell phones per capita in countries like the UAE. Since last year we have converted our entire product detailing into digital format and have stopped printing such material. Occasionally, we still use some flyers but in general most of the information that we transmit to physicians is now digital and is presented to them on Ipads with specially designed apps that we have created for our products.

We have also created apps for the general population, such as for multiple sclerosis patients, that serves as a communication platform between patients, doctors and nurses. This application is entirely free and is not related to our products in any way, but is simply a unique way of raising awareness and improving the lives of patients that live with this disease. As a public service we have made this application available for Apple and Android users."

Beyond the risks involved in operating within a market that produces minimal data to accurately forecast sales, the UAE is also unique in that it does not have a well-defined IP protection legislation that is essential to pharmaceutical companies. Currently, the industry operates under a sort of gentleman's agreement that ensures their intellectual property will be protected by the government until the day patents expire. Until today the agreement has held strong with few cases of IP violations, nevertheless, most companies still wish for a formal legal framework to protect their assets.


Mads Bo Larsen, vice president of Africa, Gulf & India for Novo Nordisk
In 2012, Roche Diagnostics opened its first management center outside of its home country in Dubai, out of which it manages 20 countries. The company's Middle East general manager, Moritz Hartmann, affirms that "we are moving away from a traditional export approach as regards the Middle East region. In the past we used a centralized department at our global logistics hub to serve these markets. However, with the diversification of our business and the increasing importance of the medical value of our products, we realized that the Middle Eastern markets need a specific approach in order to succeed here."

"On the one hand, one of the reasons to establish our management center in the UAE was to become a more attractive organization to source talented people. On the other hand, the need for qualified people within the region is very high. These countries need to develop the skills of the population to be able to fill such vacancies. This is a perfect example of how Roche Diagnostics customizes to the local ­market. We have set up our own training center here in Dubai, which is something unique when compared to other markets. At the moment, this training center is still virtual and operates remotely, however, we are now building a dedicated facility to start operating next year", concludes Hartmann.

The fact that the Middle East region on average represents a mere 2% of a global company's pharmaceutical revenues is evidence of the vast untapped potential that is latent in a region of almost 250 million people. It is further indicative of the industry's historical tepid approach to conducting business here, which is why innovative operational models are now required to harness recent growth in the region.

Maher Abouzeid, president and ceo of Middle East for GE Healthcare
"Most people believe that the Middle East markets are all the same, but this couldn't be further from the truth. There are so many specific characteristics to each market, due to their political situation and history, which require us to operate very differently from one country to the next. It is this adaptability that makes a real difference when it comes to the success of a company in the region. This is why local knowledge is essential to succeed in these markets. One advantage of the region is that we can learn from our lessons in other markets around the world and tailor those strategies to specific situations and conditions in the region", explains Walid Kattouha, head of the Middle East Cluster for Novartis based in Dubai.

"In the Middle East, it has only been in recent years that pharmaceutical companies are perceived as healthcare partners by health authorities. This is partly due to the fact that most major pharmaceutical companies used to operate through representative offices and local agents, meaning it was perceived that they were only here to sell their products, sometimes at very high prices. In the last 10 years there has been a shift to build rapport with local health authorities and to determine how the expertise of companies around the world can serve them in a better way.


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Source: Pharmaceutical Executive,
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