Neopharma, the Abu Dhabi-based drug manufacturer, has tied up with a Pfizer unit to manufacture selected products. In partnership with Wyeth, Neopharma will start with a couple of cardiovascular medicines related to hypertension and heart diseases, and will later move on to anti-inflammatory, pain management, women’s health and anti-infective drugs.
The medicines will be produced at Neopharma’s Mussafah factory, and will be available in the UAE next year. These will eventually be rolled out in the rest of the Gulf countries. Neopharma’s overseas markets include Saudi Arabia, Oman, Qatar, Kuwait, Kenya and Afghanistan. The local company is owned by the NMC Health chief executive and managing director BR Shetty.
“The partnership will enable us to transfer skills and knowledge locally,” said Zeydan Abuissa, the country manager and Pfizer Global’s head for the Gulf and Levant.
Pfizer, which entered the UAE 30 years ago, took over Wyeth in 2009. The New York-based company is also in the news for its bid to acquire the British drug company AstraZeneca.
There are about 90 global pharma companies in the UAE, but only eight, including Julphar, Neopharma, Globalpharma, and Medpharma, are considered major domestic players, according to an Alpen Capital report. Among local companies, Julphar dominates the market.
In 2012, Neopharma signed a deal with Germany’s Merck Serono and India’s Hetero Group to locally manufacture drugs. The tie-ups are expected to bring down the cost of medicines. The healthcare market in the UAE and Gulf is dominated by expensive imported prescription drugs.
The government has periodically cut medicine prices, and those of another 192 were slashed by up to 60 per cent effective January 1. These included drugs to treat heart disease, hypertension and diabetes.
Among the challenges that international drug manufacturers face in the Middle East are price controls and difficulties in registering new drugs, according to a Deloitte report from January.
The cost of medical care fell by 0.14 per cent in March compared to a year earlier, according to the National Bureau of Statistics. Neopharma is not a part of the entity listed as NMC Health in London. Among other new players in the sector are Pharmax Pharmaceuticals, a subsidiary of UAE’s Ittihad Drug Store. It is building a Dh40 million, 90,000 square feet facility at the Dubai free zone DuBiotech. The project is expected to be complete in a year. It will manufacture drugs for diabetes, hypertension, peptic ulcers, psychiatric conditions, neurological and respiratory tract disorders.