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Dubai gears up to boost local manufacturing of medicines

Dhanusha Gokulan (Principal Correspondent)/Dubai Filed on June 12, 2020

(Photo: Neeraj Murali/KT)

In a post-pandemic world, the UAE must look to reducing its dependence on imports for crucial commodities like food and medicines.

In the near future, at least 60 to 80 per cent of the essential medicines consumed in the UAE can be manufactured locally, said the head of Dubai Science Park (DSP), a science-focused hub that houses over 350 science, energy and environmental sector companies.

In a post-pandemic world, the UAE must look to reducing its dependence on imports for crucial commodities like food and medicines, said managing director of the DSP, Marwan Abdulaziz Janahi.

State- of-the-art facility

In the past few months, the DSP has played a crucial role in providing equipment and technology for Covid-19 testing and analysing large volumes of medical data related to research into the coronavirus.

He added: "We need to make sure we have access to medicine and food that are fundamental to our lives. Communities like the Dubai Science Park play a crucial role in promoting not just the manufacturing side of things, but also the research and development of these sectors."

Janahi spoke to Khaleej Times following a behind-the-scenes tour of Pharmax Pharmaceuticals at the Dubai Science Park. Pharmax is one among the five pharmaceutical plants in the UAE and is home to UAE's very first state-of-the-art inhaler and nasal spray testing lab, a facility established in collaboration with Indian pharma company Cipla.

Madhukar Tanna, CEO of Pharmax Pharmaceuticals: said: "We have also invested in a sterile testing facility that will oversee the formulation of respules to treat asthma and similar respiratory conditions. This will help both companies offer the most advanced treatment options to respiratory physicians and patients in the UAE and the wider region."

Battle against Covid-19

Abdulaziz Janahi said the DSP has two Covid-19 testing laboratories that have been working round-the-clock to ensure test results are delivered in 18 hours to the Dubai Health Authority.

"In the past few months, we have provided medication and Covid-19 testing equipment. Polymerase chain reaction (PCRs) were used in this case. The testing equipment was already in place. We have also analysed large volumes of data related to the coronavirus," he explained.

The laboratories running the tests are working 24 hours, in two shifts. "The kind of knowledge and manpower is very important during these times. Labs are only given 18 hours as the turnaround time for test results," he added. However, the information from the testing is controlled by relevant authorities.

Another major contribution from the DSP has been to procure and supply essential drugs that are used in the treatment of patients suffering from Covid-19. Janahi also stressed on the importance of training upcoming talent to work with pharmaceuticals and undergo training in local facilities to be better prepared for the future.

Highest quality products are now made locally

CEO of Pharmax Madhukar Tanna said one of the reasons this state-of-the-art facility was set-up was to ensure whatever medicines that come into the market is of the highest quality, irrespective of where it is manufactured. "It has to comply with the UAE's Ministry of Health and Prevention quality standards, only then will it go to the market," said Tanna.

He added: "The UAE is highly dependent on medicines produced outside. Now, we are receiving immense support from the government to manufacture and test within the country in order to be able to sell high-quality medication at affordable prices." The Dh135 million plant has the capacity to manufacture over 300 million tablets and capsules per year. "Once we open up to full capacity, we can manufacture one billion," said Tanna.

"We produce locally-made medicine for chronic conditions. This was not available earlier. Things like diabetes, a lot of people suffer from it and so, we have a product range for diabetes, hypertension, cholesterol," said Tanna.
The company is also planning to expand rapidly into manufacturing injectables locally, as there is a severe shortage for these kinds of medicines across the globe.


Dhanusha Gokulan

Originally from India, Dhanusha Gokulan has been working as a journalist for 10 years. She has a keen interest in writing about issues that plague the common person, and will never turn down a human interest story. She completed her Bachelor in Arts in Journalism, Economics, and English Literature from Mangalore University in 2008. In her spare time, she dabbles with some singing/songwriting, loves travelling, and Audible is her favourite mobile application. Tweet at her @wordjunkie88

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