Dubai 2018 | HEALTH | B2B
Danilo Cassani
Functional Integration Team Lead for the Emerging Markets Business Unit
Takeda Pharmaceutical Company
Karim Smaira
Managing Director

What makes the countries in the MENA region attractive for your company?

DANILO CASSANI This office is still small but steadily growing. Takeda still has a portfolio that is fairly heavily balanced toward Japan, with a disproportionately large amount of revenue coming from there. In the Middle East, we are still at a suboptimal level. The regulatory timelines make us progress in a more deliberate manner. There is a great interest in this region, and we just need to continue to make progress. We are looking to launch more studies in countries affiliated with the Middle East. It is important to bring innovation to these areas, and we are willing to do so at an early stage. We want to leverage our global specialization to attract R&D investment to this part of the world and look at how local infrastructure can fulfill the requirements of our global R&D operations and portfolio. Rather than market value, I prefer to look at our strategy as being one that seeks to maximize the benefit of the people. If we manage to make our products available to the patients to help them make a difference in their lives, then we will have fulfilled our commitment. The most important thing is that there are unmet needs in the market, and we are capable of meeting these needs in a way that makes the people healthier and happier.

KARIM SMAIRA Every single country in the MENA region is distinctive; the pricing, time to market, regulatory process, and funding are different as some countries now have mandatory insurance and reimbursements while others do not. There is also the impact of expats making up the majority in most of these countries, which affects the healthcare system, and all these differences make the region extremely heterogeneous. When we talk to partners that want to come to the Middle East, we explain that there is no one-size-fits-all strategy, and they need to be adaptable, flexible, and agile and tailor their strategies accordingly. They approach us because of the local expertise and know-how we have developed working in the pharmaceutical industry over the years. They are mostly concerned with geopolitical instability; therefore, it is important to reassure them that we are familiar with the environment and able to navigate through the risks region presents.

What are the most important trends and developments in the healthcare industry?

DC From our perspective, there are three main aspects to supporting the industry here. The first is innovation; the ability to bring innovation and discover local innovators that we are able to scale is vital. The second important aspect is accessibility. This has a number of issues, and it is not as simple as just bringing a product to the market. There are many hurdles, including regulatory approval. It can take two to three years to secure an approval, though the UAE is in fact extremely advanced in this regard. The authorities recognize that this is a hurdle and are doing a great deal to improve this. New regulation is on the way to speed up the approval process. A third important aspect is affordability. We have innovative and efficacious medicines that can be expensive, but we have created what we call Patient Access Programs to provide support to patients, ensuring that they have access to the treatments they need. This is particularly true for areas of medicine like oncology.

KS There are several R&D areas to look at. There is a fair bit of R&D in manufacturing, and there has been a great deal of support to create an industrial platform in the UAE that would serve the region and beyond, such as Africa and the CIS countries. This strategy helps to reduce the dependence on imported drugs and can contain the cost of drugs. There are about 20-25 manufacturing plants planned in the UAE by 2030 for that very purpose, mostly producing generic drugs. The other R&D aspect would be research, which requires medical universities and labs. Overall, the region is still fairly behind on creating the required ecosystem to support basic research.