PHARMA POSSIBILITIES

Oman 2017 | HEALTH & EDUCATION | FOCUS: PHARMACEUTICALS

Oman is looking to lessen its dependence on foreign imports for pharmaceutical products.

The global pharmaceutical market is currently estimated to have a USD300 billion net worth, and the World Health Organization predicts that this number will rise to USD400 billion as quickly as within the next three years. Commanding a sizable percentage of budgets as healthcare questions and prospects loom, Oman can benefit from a more domestic-centered pharmaceutical market. The country currently imports more than 93% of its medications, so any increase in production will be most welcome as a great place to start. In addition, international financial companies have predicted that Oman's healthcare sector will be worth a projected USD4.3 billion by the year 2020—reflecting a nearly 100% increase compared to the numbers in 2015, which valued Oman's healthcare sector at USD2.3 billion. This is part of the larger trend that predicts to see the GCC healthcare market grow an average of 12% per year over the next five years.

Offering his insights on this matter the Minister of Health, HE Dr. Ahmed Mohammed Al-Saidi, told TBY about some of the recent strategies taken by the Omani government to spur development in the nation's pharmaceutical industry. He commented on how a recent royal decree has widened the income generation capabilities of pharmacies, allowing them to reduce the price of drugs by more than 50% in some cases. Also helping the Omani public in this regard, the GCC took action to unify the price of drugs across all of its member states, which saw the prices of drugs in Oman drastically reduced. Prior to this decision, Oman had one of the highest prices for medication in the region. The minister also spoke about his aim to develop a strong pharmaceutical industry in Oman, seeing as the country currently relies heavily on imports. Touching on his plans to strengthen the domestic pharmaceutical industry and overall healthcare investments in Oman, he said: “We had visits from international pharmaceutical companies, both from the region and the West. I hope they will study our proposals to have a base and produce medication in Oman. Establishing a strong pharmaceutical sector in Oman will be the gateway to East Africa and to Iran, as well as to the GCC. If any investor in healthcare, pharmaceutical companies, or hospitals is serious about investing in Oman, we can provide them with a plot of land as part of a medical city.” He also cited the simple regulatory environment in place and readily available facilities in Oman that can work to attract big, international pharmaceutical players to develop a base.

The Minister's open invitation to attract foreign pharmaceutical producers is smart for Oman for a number of reasons, chief of which includes serving the burgeoning domestic demand. Apart from that, if the production is set up in a way that would allow for increased exports, the other GCC nations, most of which are pharmaceutical importers, would be very willing to establish trade. Signifying notable progress, Oman has seen its first pharmaceutical formulations manufacturer begin operations. National Pharmaceutical Industries Co. began operations in the country's Rusayl Industrial Estate, where they are producing generic medications and filling a vacuum in the market by offering popular medications to the public at a cost-effective price regime. The company has managed to grow quickly and now exports its products to many countries around the Middle East and Africa. As the industrial sector of Oman is constantly on the prowl for new international partners, especially true of their economic zones at Duqm, Sohar, and Salalah, possibilities for pharmaceutical investments should be pushed at the government level, including signing MoUs with visiting country officials with a view to bring renewed development to the sector. Steps have been taken in Duqm with the announcement of the region's first sebacic acid plant, the largest plant of its kind in the world, which can add considerable value downstream for Oman.