How would you assess the significance of the Saudi Arabian market in relation to GSK's regional and global strategy?
The Saudi Arabian market is very important and is considered to be the largest in the Middle East/Africa for pharmaceuticals. The country places high priority towards health sector development. The Saudi Arabian government is supporting the development of the healthcare sector, by placing the right infrastructure and developing the right policies for the health of the population. GSK is aligned with this vision, as we are the first global company to set up a joint venture to locally manufacture pharmaceuticals. Glaxo Saudi Arabia Ltd. manufactures most of the pharmaceuticals that we market in Saudi Arabia. We are not only bringing new technology to the country but are also training and developing local talent on the manufacturing front.
What are some of the unique challenges in this market?
One of our key contributions to people's health is to develop and deliver innovative new medicines and vaccines, which improve the prevention and treatment of disease and medical conditions. Registration timelines have been a challenge in Saudi Arabia as it may take up to two years before registration is granted to new chemical entities, which normally delays the access to innovative medicines to Saudi patients. However, we understand that SFDA is actively reviewing their registration processes to shorten the registration timelines especially for those products that have already been reviewed by authorities in the US and Europe. This will help in early access of innovative medicines to Saudi patients. Another challenge, which is crucial to our business, is the scarcity of Saudi national pharmacists and the difficulties in attracting those talents to work with pharmaceutical companies. However, GSK is at the forefront of attracting local pharmacists toward career opportunities offered by the industry.
What kind of products are you focusing on in the short term?
GSK has a huge portfolio, which varies from country to country. Most of the products we market come from our R&D pipeline. GSK is considered to be the number one supplier of respiratory medicines worldwide; we provide treatment options for most common respiratory illnesses such as asthma and COPD. GSK is also one of the largest companies for vaccines involved in research and development and manufacture. We supply most vaccines required for the vaccination program in Saudi Arabia. GSK also manufacture primary care medicines, such as antibiotics, anti-allergy, and anti-ulcerants, and so on. We also have a specialized portfolio to treat AIDS (HIV), hepatitis, depression, and epilepsy.
What are your main priorities for next couple of years?
In the next couple of years we will be bringing innovative medicines in the field of asthma, COPD, HIVurology, and diabetes to the patients in Saudi Arabia. We want to ensure that our local manufacturing (Glaxo Saudi Arabia Ltd.) site is reinforced to manufacture most of our products locally, rather than depend solely on imports. We have also entered into a strategic alliance with a local company in Saudi Arabia to manufacture vaccines. These initiatives will help to transfer the latest manufacturing technology to Saudi Arabia, develop local talent and smooth supply of medicines and vaccines to the people and the government of the Kingdom.
What do you see as the long-term outlook for Saudi Arabia's pharmaceutical sector and what are the major trends that you are noticing in the sector?
The pharmaceutical industry in Saudi Arabia will continue to grow at a reasonable rate. Nonetheless, due to GCC price unification and reference pricing there may be reduction of prices of some products. The high population growth rate of the country and government commitment to the healthcare sector will result in high demand for better healthcare facilities and innovative medicines. Moreover, as the population ages there will be more demand for medicines for treating chronic disorders such as cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and COPD.