Pfizer has unveiled expansion plans for the Middle East region with an agreement to open a manufacturing plant in Saudi Arabia which is scheduled to go online in 2015.
The development represents a major step forward for pharmaceutical manufacturing in the region, which still relies heavily on imported medicines produced overseas.
Despite political unrest in a number of neighbouring Middle East and North Africa (MENA) countries, Saudi Arabia has remained largely stable thanks in part to a $36 billion economic stimulus package announced by King Abdullah earlier this year.
Part of that package included subsidies for domestic production of medicines, with the aim of meeting 40% of the country’s domestic needs from home-grown drugs within the next 10 years, according to Business Monitor International. In addition to Pfizer at least seven other pharmaceutical manufacturers have taken the decision to set up manufacturing plants in the kingdom, says BMI.
Pfizer’s 65,000-sq.m. plant, to be located in King Abdullah Economic City north of Jeddah, will house “medicine manufacturing and packaging technologies within one complex [and] will have the capacity to manufacture up to 1 billion tablets and capsules a year”, said Pfizer in a statement.
The Saudi Press Agency said the plant will be used to make some of Pfizer’s top-selling brands, including erectile dysfunction treatment Viagra (sildenafil), anti-inflammatory Celebrex (celecoxib) and cholesterol-lowering drug Lipitor (atorvastatin). Around 100-200 jobs will be created as a result of the construction.
The Saudi pharmaceutical market alone is worth around $3.4bn a year, and grew by more than 8% in 2010, said BMI. Saleh Bawzir, Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Executive President for Pharmaceutical Affairs, said in April that domestic production is growing despite a shortage of technical expertise and limited active pharmaceutical ingredient (API) manufacturing capabilities.