WORKING OUT THE KINKS
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.
Jihad Hussami, managing director of Eastern Europe, Middle East & Africa for Hill-Rom
"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.
"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.
Waclaw Lukowicz, ceo of Middle East for Siemens Healthcare
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.
GLOBAL LESSONS UNLEASHED IN THE MIDDLE EAST
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."
Mads Bo Larsen, vice president of Africa, Gulf & India for Novo Nordisk
"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.
"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.
Maher Abouzeid, president and ceo of Middle East for GE Healthcare
"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.