Friday, May 07, 2021 | Ramadan 24, 1442 H
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Pandemic highlights importance of local pharma industries


The COVID-19 pandemic and the oil crisis offer many lessons to the world, especially for countries in the region that still depend on oil as a major source of income and revenue.  These crises motivate us to accelerate economic diversification, to take advantage of our available resources, as well as to show more interest in operating the national workforce, which will help in circulating liquid funds within countries and reduce the large monthly financial transfers for expatriate workers.

There are many economic sectors that can be focused on in the GCC states and establish them individually, bilaterally or collectively, including pharmaceutical industries projects that value millions of dollars in annual revenue. These crises have proven necessary to have them especially in such circumstances.  We see today that we are neglected in the pharmaceutical industries, while we have spent billions of dollars during the past decades on projects and areas of luxury without paying attention to the urgent issues of our societies, not to mention the other billions that are spending in order to ignite and wage wars in the region and beyond.

For decades, we have been calling for industrial integration in the Gulf to ensure that our needs and our commodities of food, medicine, medical equipment, etc. are available whenever we want, but only less has been achieved, while we have been competing with each other in many industrial projects that lead to the loss of some annually.

In the past years, the GCC countries were able to establish a health council among them, but the mission of this council lies in finding a unified system for registering medicines and ensuring their quality and effectiveness. It also deals with the accuracy of the information related to its manufacture in accordance with international specifications and standards, regardless of the high price of these medicines in local markets, while the beneficiaries of this are a group of foreign personalities and merchants who control the markets of this necessary commodity.

We appreciate the effort made by the Council to work with its competencies in this regard, such as unifying the registration of pharmaceutical companies, regulations and procedures of registering those companies, standardizing drug pricing, increasing integration and coordination among member states. All of these issues are important to the citizen and resident of the region, because these information help to ensure the application of the principles of good manufacturing by companies to medicines, and to monitor their side effects, in addition to using those drugs in an optimal manner and at the lowest costs, and that access to them is safe, effective and affordable.

But what we lack in the region is to have integrated pharmaceutical industries and projects that are distributed among our countries so that we can dispose of them if we need to produce more of them at a time of distress and disease.  We know that the US and European countries avoid giving us the knowledge and expertise necessary for the pharmaceutical industry in the region because of their knowledge that allowing the creation of a pharmaceutical industrial base in the region will reduce the import of medicines from their countries, which are sometimes sold at fictional prices, not to mention what the Gulf citizens spend on the treatment sector annually abroad as a result of lack of specialized hospitals in the region.

Today we must return attention to that, and strengthen coordination between the Gulf health ministries to consider all issues of concern to the people of the region, whether of products, medical devices, medicine, and everything related to human health in general.

Haider Al Lawati

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