This is a best prospect industry sector for this country. Includes a market overview and trade data.
Last Published: 4/23/2018


The U.A.E. pharmaceutical market is the second-largest in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) after Saudi Arabia.  Business Monitor International (BMI) estimates the U.A.E. pharmaceutical market reached a value of $2.6 billion in 2016, representing 16.3 percent of healthcare expenditure and 0.7 percent of GDP.  For 2017, BMI projects year-over-year growth of 8.5 percent.  Market dynamics – including rapid approval times, increasing insurance penetration and a strong patented drug market – will ensure the country's pharmaceutical market remains of interest to innovative drug makers.

The U.A.E. imports pharmaceutical products from 72 countries, and 10 countries account for approximately 80 percent of the entire supply:  United Kingdom, Switzerland, Germany, Belgium, USA, France, Spain, Italy and Australia. Most major research-based firms have a long-standing presence in the U.A.E., either via contract manufacturing or local distribution channels.  Leading multinationals include Pfizer, Novartis, Sanofi, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), Bayer, AstraZeneca, Merck, Abbvie, Eli Lily, BMS, and Amgen.

The domestic sector is small.  Currently, the local manufacturing industry’s clear leader is Gulf Pharmaceutical Industries, followed by Neopharma, Global Pharma, specialty generic injectable maker Gulf Inject, and Julphar Pharmaceuticals.  In January 2017, the U.A.E.’s Ministry of Health (MoH) announced plans to increase the number of pharmaceutical manufacturing facilities to 30 by 2020 – up from 16 in 2017. 

The U.A.E. government has taken continuous measurements to ensure long-term growth for this key sector. Beyond revisiting the drug approval processes, the MoH intends to work with local companies to improve the licensing policy for existing drug manufacturers.

According to Dr Amin al-Amiri, assistant undersecretary of Public Health and Licensing Policy at the MoH, “Organizations will exchange knowledge and remove any barriers to the development of the pharmaceutical sector in the free zone.  The MoH is keen to partner with international companies to establish research centers for the production of innovative and generic drugs in cooperation with local drug makers.” 

It is unknown whether innovative medicines will be given prioritization for approval, and there are significant questions about the UAE government’s commitment to protection of patents, which creates a degree of uncertainty regarding the implications for multinational drug makers in the near term. An industry source reported that there are plans underway to allow the registration of generic drugs one year before patents on original products expire in the U.A.E.  This would advantage local generic firms over multinationals and boost generic sub-sector growth.

As of August 2016, the MoH cut the prices of 762 innovative and critically required medicines by up to 66 percent as part of the seventh initiative of “Reduction in Medicine Prices”.  During 2016, MOHAP allocated approximately AED 462 million ($125 million) for procurement of medicines and medical supplies in order to ensure an uninterrupted supply.

The country's accelerated drug-registration system applies to both innovative and generic medicines that have been approved by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration. Recent examples of fast-tracked products in the U.A.E. include Eli Lilly's Trulicity (dulaglutide), AbbVie's Viekirax (ombitasvir/paritaprevir/ritonavir), and Exviera (dasabuvir) for hepatitis C. 

The MoH has warned against the rise of counterfeit drugs online and the ministry is currently keeping a close monitoring on websites suspected of this activity. According local media, most of the counterfeit drugs sold online and smuggled into countries are medicines used to treat chronic diseases such as diabetes, hypertension and obesity.

Leading Sub-Sectors

In June 2017, the Ministry of Health (MoH) signed a memorandum of understanding with Jebel Ali Free Zone Authority (Jafza) for the development of the pharmaceutical and healthcare sector, with a particular focus on reducing the regulatory barriers. As part of the agreement, the UAE states it is aiming to attract 75 innovative drug makers to the Jebel Ali free zone by 2021, with the number of companies producing patented drugs locally expected to double


Trade Shows
Dubai Pharmaceutical & Technologies’ Exhibition (DUPHAT)
Dates: 27th Feb – 1st Mar 2018
Venue: Dubai World Trade Center, Dubai-U.A.E.
Show Organizer: Index Conference & Exhibitions Org.
Venue: Dubai World Trade Center Dubai - U.A.E.

Web Resources

U.A.E.-Ministry of Trade
Ministry of Health
Health Authority Abu Dhabi
Dubai Health Authority


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United Arab Emirates Biopharmaceuticals Trade Development and Promotion