Can you tell us more about your strategic plans for a healthier future?
A major part of the medical chapter of Vision 2030 consists of improving public health and preventing disease. Part of this success will be having healthy food, so we want to apply practices from the world's leading countries. We started planning our strategy and came up with a plan to implement it. The WHO has recommended doses of sugar, salt, and saturated and hydrogenated fats for manufacturing, and we want to implement those doses. We want to guide consumers in selecting healthy choices; and to do this, we have aligned ourselves with the Ministry of Education. Furthermore, we have a plan for an initiative for healthy food in public and private corporations. It is our task to support the consumer with the selection of healthy food and with campaigns for healthy lifestyles. For example, we urge restaurants to declare how many calories their items contain. Finally, we are working on lowering the level of pesticides and other contaminants in food to European levels.
Under Vision 2030, the government strives for localization in the medical supply industry. How is SFDA working on quality control in this sector?
Our target in the drug and medical devices industry is to combine availability, quality, safety, and affordability for consumers and patients alike. We will encourage the increase of local manufacturing to boost the NTP 2020 goal of localizing 40% production. We facilitated and streamlined the process of registration for medications and drugs by 68% in the past year alone. In 2017, the number of registrations increased, and we reduced the time needed to do so. Currently, it is poissble to make an appointment and submit the file within three weeks, and we are committed to give a response within two months, which is much less than the international regulatory authorities. We are also reviewing the quality standards and working with our colleagues in the general authority of aviation in Saudi Arabia and the Ministry of Transport to streamline the introduction of drugs and medical devices in airports and make sure we do not have any hurdles in terms of temperature control in these places. We are also adapting the time we spend on testing in the labs, reducing the number of days from 17 in 2016 to 13. At the same time, the number of staff was reduced by about 20%, and company visitations increased by more than 20%. We are focused on efficiencies and developing our customer service in our business support center, which is located at our headquarters, though we are opening other branches too. It is a layer of customer service not provided by our internal department, but by a department that reports to me directly. We will also have a hotline so people can inquire about anything regarding their file or applications. By establishing centers to help local manufacturers, the latter will also have account managers with whom to follow up with the paperwork. The implementation of VAT in January 2018 exempts drugs and medical devices, which serves manufacturers and consumers well.