Saudi Arabia - Country Commercial Guide
Pharma and Biosciences

This is a best prospect industry sector for this country. Includes a market overview and trade data.

Last published date: 2019-10-13

Overview

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia accounts for 59.4 percent of the purchases of pharmaceutical products in the Gulf region. The market was estimated at $5.75 billion in 2017 and poised to grow at CAGR 6.7 percent, expected to reach $8.46 billion by 2023, according to a report published by Precision Business Insights. 

Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 and the NTP’s priorities for job creation and economic diversification provided a strong incentive for both the private and public sector to develop the life sciences industry in general, and pharmaceuticals in particular.  Currently, only 30 percent of pharmaceutical products are manufactured locally.  Major factors affecting the pharmaceutical market are the Kingdom’s growing population, the increase in per capita spending on healthcare services, and the propensity to prefer research-based products as opposed to purchase more expensive patented products. However, in recent years, the SAG’s efforts to curb pharmaceutical expenditures and promote local manufacturing resulted in a fast and growing generics market.  European, U.S., and Indian companies already have established production facilities -– especially, at the King Abdullah Economic Industrial Valley — producing a full range of products including antibiotics, diabetic treatments, cardiovascular drugs, and anticoagulants. Opportunities abound for additional manufacturers to establish a presence in the Kingdom, especially in vaccines, APIs, injectables, and biologics.

Pharmaceuticals and Medical Trade with Saudi Arabia ($ Billion)

 

NAICS

FLOW

2015

2016

2017

2018

JAN-MAY

 

3254—PHARMACEUTICALS & MEDICINES

EXPORTS

348,287

276,289

236,872

123,708

325412—PHARMACEUTICAL PREPARATIONS

EXPORTS

235,537

149,327

102,706

54,197

325414—BIOLOGICAL PRODUCTS (EXC DIAGNOSTIC)

EXPORTS

44,890

60,170

74,394

41,848

325411—MEDICINAL & BOTANICAL DRUGS & VITAMINS

EXPORTS

32,336

40,893

25,523

14,450

325413—IN-VITRO DIAGNOSTIC SUBSTANCE

EXPORTS

35,524

25,899

34,248

13,213

3254—PHARMACEUTICALS & MEDICINES

IMPORTS

722

667

834

92

325412—PHARMACEUTICAL PREPARATIONS

IMPORTS

715

661

711

89

325413—IN-VITRO DIAGNOSTIC SUBSTANCE

IMPORTS

6

0

13

2

325414—BIOLOGICAL PRODUCTS (EXC DIAGNOSTIC)

IMPORTS

0

0

25

0

325411—MEDICINAL & BOTANICAL DRUGS & VITAMINS

IMPORTS

0

6

86

0

Source: United States Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census, Foreign Trade Division

In a recent move to demonstrate Saudi Arabia’s commitment to intellectual property protection, the Saudi Arabian Government (SAG) announced the establishment of the Saudi Authority for Intellectual Property (SAIP) under the umbrella of Ministry of Commerce and Investment (MCI) in April 2018.  Prior to that, Saudi Arabia undertook a comprehensive revision of its laws covering intellectual property rights to bring them in line with the WTO agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs). However, due to concerns regarding recent deteriorations in IP protection for pharmaceutical products, in addition to outstanding concerns regarding multiple IP enforcement issues, Saudi Arabia was placed in the Special 301 Watch List in April 2018.

Opportunities

Pharmaceuticals for diabetic, cardiovascular, antibiotics, and cancer treatment offer the best prospects.

With the change in the Saudi Arabia trade paradigm that is focusing more on job creation and economic diversification, the export and shipping of pharmaceutical products into the Saudi market no longer translates into commercial success. Local production, technology transfer, conducting clinical trials locally, and the training/education of the Saudi labor force are becoming the new normal in the life sciences/pharmaceutical products industry. The 2030Vision and NTP have placed the Industrial Clusters (IC) as the lead government entities to develop five industrial sectors including the pharmaceutical and biotech industry.

Accordingly, the IC has identified the following opportunities in the pharmaceuticals industry:

        Biologics and Biosimilars

        Vaccine Formulation Fill and Finish (FFF)

        Sterile Injectables (SI)

        Solid Oral Dosage

        Active Pharmaceuticals Ingredients (API)

        Plasma Production

        Bioequivalence Testing Center

Web Resources

Ministry of Health

Saudi Arabia Food and Drug Administration

Industrial Clusters

General Investment Authority