The WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION called Iran one the world’s most robust health systems. Iran is the largest manufacturer of generic chemical drugs in the Middle East and North Africa. With a total capacity of 50 billion units per year, Iran is the hub for 120 local manufacturers of finished pharmaceutical products, 55 producers of chemical active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs), and 46 distributors. Iran’s pharmaceutical market is worth around USD4 billion, around half of which consists of generic medicines.
Despite these figures, a leading pharmaceutical exporter Iran is not, as production is still mainly used for domestic purposes. The per-capita consumption of generic drugs in Iran is three times higher than the global average. Every year, Iran’s 80-million population consumes 30 billion units of generic medicines, which averages down to one unit per person per day.
With FY2015 medicine exports of just USD180 million, Iran is a talented player that is nonetheless benched in the international pharmaceutical game. This will change, according to the country’s Vision 2025, in which the ambitious goal is set out to increase exports to USD1.5 billion over the next eight years. As Iran’s current production capacity does little more than sustain domestic needs, the sector will need to expand.
One project will be particularly instrumental in this regard. On a 176ha piece of land in the Alborz province, 60km from Tehran, Barkat Pharmaceutical Industrial Town is the first industrial city in Iran that is solely dedicated to pharmaceutical development. It will be the base for cutting-edge research and production facilities, and a hub for investments in the pharmaceutical industry.
Barkat Pharmaceutical Industrial Town will include all the necessary facilities and equipment for conducting advanced pharmaceutical research, and will engage international universities and knowledge institutions to boost R&D and foster the launch of new products. Moreover, it will be a destination for scientific incubators and chemical, biotechnology, and API producers. The complex will enhance the national production capacity, enabling a move toward the export goals in Vision 2025.
The Iranian government is supporting the plans to make the town a special economic zone. Barkat Pharmaceutical Industrial Town will generate employment opportunities in storage, maintenance, and distribution facilities, giving some impetus to Iran’s frustrated job market. More specifically, it will provide opportunities for Iranian university graduates and academics, helping the country to retain Iranian talent. Barkat will be a hub of international knowledge sharing that will encourage the transfer of state-of-the-art technology into Iran and attract foreign professionals and researchers to help in the development of the park.
It will be a place where both local and foreign investors can meet with around 100 innovative and high-tech companies, large and small, because of the immense potential to absorb investments. One of the main aims of the industrial town is to attract investments up to USD2 billion. These financial resources will back a wide range of medical and pharmaceutical production needs, including bio drugs, medical devices, laboratory diagnostic kits, and pharmaceutical packaging material. Iran is probably the largest untapped market, and its skilled workforce and positive market dynamics make the country an attractive pharmaceutical investment destination. To further coax foreign investors, the government has approved a tax exemption scheme and incentive plans to foster pharmaceutical exports.
Dr. Hamid Reza Jamshidi, Managing Director of Barkat Pharmaceutical Group, told TBY that 16 companies have already bought property in the pharmaceutical town. Among these companies are reputable names such as Novo Nordisk from Denmark and Vitabiotics from the UK. Barkat Pharmaceutical Industrial Town is an exciting new development and a hub that embodies the field of opportunities in the health and pharmaceutical sector in Iran. There is no doubt the town will serve the country in its vision of building a resilient and diversified economy and expanding non-oil exports.