Overview of the pharmaceutical industry in Saudi Arabia

Author Khaoula Bachira
January 11, 2020

In recent years the Saudi Arabian pharmaceutical industry has witnessed tremendous growth and the future for recruitment within this sector has great potential. Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 is an initiative that aims to transform the economy of the country and diversify its sources of income away from its dependence on oil. This also includes attracting foreign capital to support domestic investment projects, which will increase employment opportunities for Saudi’s and non-nationals willing to relocate.

According to the latest IQVIA Market Prognosis – Saudi Arabia report, the Kingdom’s pharmaceutical market is expected to grow at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 5.5% until 2023. Cara Turner, Brand Director – Pharma, UBM EMEA, confirms that its expansion over recent years can be attributed to a growing population, an increase in non-communicable diseases and strong state support for health services, with major government investment in new hospitals and clinics. 

Saudi Arabia has plans to become the main pharmaceutical hub for the Middle East and North Africa, and is well positioned to achieve its goals and develop this sector.  It is considered one of the most stable areas in the Middle East, with strategic location and a regulated access to the regional market. Part of the transformation plan for Saudi Arabia is to raise the percentage of total pharmaceutical production from 20% to 40%. Foreign pharmaceutical manufacturers are being actively encouraged to establish plants in Saudi Arabia through a combination of public and private partnerships as well as joint ventures with national entities. Raed Al-Swayed, vice president of Saudi Pharma Industrial Clusters, a Ministry of Industry, confirmed that the Government is supportive, local companies are gearing up and the regulatory body is encouraging. Many incentives are being offered in the form of preferential treatment in future volume tenders adds Julie Bassi – Senior Associate, Al Tamimi & Co. As an additional incentive, foreign owned manufacturers within Saudi Arabia can distribute and sell pharmaceuticals within the country whereas all imported pharmaceuticals can only be distributed through a Saudi distributor.

However, the National Industrial Development and Logistic program has highlighted several challenges faced by the pharmaceutical manufacturers mainly due to the local regulations and policies, extended registration procedures, the delayed disbursement by the authorities and also a limited knowledge to diversify and move to more complex products.