BUSINESS

Healthcare investments in Saudi Arabia are accelerating transformation

May 13, 2022



Global healthcare is currently experiencing a substantial shift in the way it operates and caters to patient needs, driven by advancements in science and technology and changing consumer demands. This has resulted in a more patient-centric approach to healthcare that prioritises wellness and preventative care. The significant impact of health on wellbeing, quality of life, and economic development has also positioned access to quality healthcare as a core target of global Sustainable Development Goals, as outlined by the United Nations General Assembly.

In response to rising global healthcare standards (alongside a growing and changing population) the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) embarked on its healthcare transformation journey in 2016 as part of its strategy for economic development and national growth, Vision 2030. This led to the launch of its Healthcare Transformation Programme to restructure the nation’s health system to be “comprehensive, effective, and integrated based on the health of the individual and society.”

That same year, Swiss multinational pharmaceutical company Acino made its first entrance into the market by engaging with local communities. Later in 2017, Acino established its first scientific office in the country to inspire research and innovation in medicine and help meet local market needs.

“Our core mission at Acino is to ensure access to high quality and affordable medicines, by enabling healthcare practitioners to enhance the quality of care for patients and improve treatment outcomes,” says Dr Andrew Bird, General Manager and Head of Region, Middle East, Turkey, and Africa (META) at Acino. “Timely access to quality medicines plays a vital role in the care and treatment of illness and is therefore central to realising effective and sustainable healthcare. As such, supporting the KSA’s Healthcare Transformation Programme will accelerate our mission.”

Headquartered in Zurich, Switzerland, Acino develops, manufactures and internationally markets proven and innovative pharmaceuticals in select territories within the Middle East, Africa, Russia, the Commonwealth of Independent States, Ukraine and Latin America. The pharmaceutical company maintains highly professional local teams across 40 countries in the META region, with a sales force of nearly 500 medical representatives and strong distribution partnerships across the region.

As part of its commitment to the region, Acino recently established a legal entity and office in Jeddah to support its expansion in Saudi Arabia to meet the growing demand for tailored treatments.

“Our expansion into Saudi Arabia will act as a springboard to strengthen our investment in new and advanced treatments, partnerships, employment opportunities, as well as education and skills development – enabling us to provide more robust support to the Kingdom’s healthcare transformation efforts,” adds Bird. “We will also be able to better leverage our strong distribution partnerships across META along with our high-quality pharma manufacturing capabilities and network to supply local pharma companies with high-quality medicines.”

Acino has already taken its first steps in supporting local pharmaceutical companies with the recent announcement of its strategic partnerships with Alpha Pharma and Batterjee Pharma. The partnership with Alpha Pharma covers a variety of therapeutic areas including Acino’s medicines for gastro/gastric and duodenal ulcers, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and pain management and is expected to become available in 2023. Additionally, its partnership with Batterjee will deliver products in two stages – Acino’s anti-constipation medicines will be available later this year, and its GERD medicines will follow in 2024.

These medicines will provide relief for most common health problems in local patients. In a 2017 medical research paper, researchers found that gastric ulcers and duodenal ulcers were prevalent in Arar, Northern Saudi Arabia. Meanwhile, a 2019 report found that GERD (commonly known as acid reflux) affects around 17.8% of the population in the country.

“Acino will remain committed to advancing healthcare across Saudi Arabia in the future by bringing our global expertise, collaborating with local manufacturers, investing in human resources and science activities, and creating local jobs,” says Bird.

Efforts to transform the local healthcare sector have already yielded significant benefits. According to the World Health Organisation, by mid-2019 the Kingdom’s healthcare reform contributed to a 37.5% increase in the rate of primary healthcare visits, a 4.7% increase in patient satisfaction, and an increased screening rate for prevalent chronic diseases. With continued support, quality healthcare will become more accessible and comprehensive, enabling more people to live full and healthy lives.


May 13, 2022
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