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UAE, Dubai 2012 | HEALTH & EDUCATION | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Abboud Bejjani, Regional Director, Middle East, Africa, & Pakistan at Abbott Laboratories S.A., on the significance of Dubai, product development, and international growth plans.

Abboud Bejjani
BIOGRAPHY
Abboud Bejjani joined Abbott in 1998 as Financial Planning Manager for the Middle East Region, progressing through positions of increasing responsibility in finance until becoming Regional Finance Director, Middle East and North Africa in 2001. He later took the position of Country Manager for the Gulf and Levant Region in 2005, before assuming his current position. He has a Master’s degree in Accounting and Finance from Saint Joseph University in Lebanon.

What is the history of Abbott Laboratories in the region?

Abbott has a long history in the Middle East and has been in the region for many decades. Abbott is considered among the first few pharmaceuticals that came to the region and maintained its goal to advance medical science to help people live healthier lives by addressing important health needs from infancy to the golden years. We work closely with our partners across the Middle East, with a presence in every country.

What is the significance of the UAE in terms of your Middle East operations?

Our Middle East and Africa office is based in Dubai, which hosts all of our divisions, ranging from nutritional products, laboratory diagnostics, medical devices, and pharmaceutical therapies. We are the market leaders in most of our divisions, working passionately and thoughtfully translating science into lasting contributions to health.

What is the focus of your product development in the region?

In the UAE and the region, we ensure availability of our best products. We have been pioneers in introducing many medicines that are first in their categories. One such latest introduction is Humira, the first fully-human monoclonal antibody for the treatment of immune mediated inflammatory disorders like rheumatoid arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, psoriatic arthritis, psoriasis, Crohn's disease, and ulcerative colitis. Previously, we have introduced first in class products in neonatology, anesthesia, and HIV/AIDS therapy areas. We also have several innovative products in the pipeline for chronic kidney disease and hepatitis C. The company supports disease awareness and educational activities with the public, through our partnerships with government, specifically the Ministry of Health (MOH) and other major institutions. We have realized that the public lacks disease awareness, and many times the delay in diagnosis allows the disease to reach an advanced stage where its management becomes a challenge to the healthcare providers. Our three main focuses in the UAE and the region are to register new products as early as possible, educate the healthcare providers through training, seminars, and workshops, and help the public by designing programs in association with healthcare professionals who address disease education. On the other hand, we bring many opportunities to the residents living in the region, by offering and creating job opportunities.

What trends have you witnessed in the past five to 10 years in terms of the services and products you deliver?

In the past five to 10 years the market has expanded rapidly leading to firstly, a volume increase of companies, and secondly, to a more customer-centric approach. For example, doctors are satisfied with the professional educational services they are receiving from companies, however they would like to see more patient education programs, since an empowered patient would lead to a better patient outcome. Thirdly, we've begun to see increased government participation in building healthcare structure. The government has taken aggressive action to restructure the system through privatization, compulsory insurance implementation, and changing the medical coverage from the government into a model closely aligned with social security.

What are your growth plans for the UAE and wider regions?

We're seeking to expand globally and regionally to improve our focus and support to patient care and services. The existing Proprietary Pharmaceutical Division (PPD) of Abbott Laboratories will be separated by 1Q2013 to begin independent operations under the name of AbbVie, a new research based pharmaceutical company. In the past, we hired many overseas expatriates from the US, Europe, and Canada, but this is no longer the case. We are employing residents of the countries from the region as part of our effort to build a base of local talent. We have been very successful in this endeavor, and we hope to continue in the future. The company aims to expand in terms of introducing new products as fast as possible. The Middle East is on our list of emerging markets, with good growth opportunities. This country is a hub that has a large pool of talent from across the globe, and we are keen to invest in the right people and build a brighter future.