UAE is the second largest pharmaceutical market within the Gulf region and considered one of the most developed in the Middle East. The pharmaceutical market (natural products, herbal medicines and drugs) is estimated to be worth US$1bn in 2015 with a strong CAGR of 10%.
The growth is driven by the country’s rapidly expanding population, sector modernization, expansion of the health insurance system and growing level of health awareness.
Vitamins and food supplements are among the fastest-growing segments of the OTC sector with CAGR 14% and sales around US$ 25mn. There are currently around 1,400 pharmacies across the country, of which nearly 350 are in Dubai. Vitamins and food supplements are sold in almost all pharmacies, where pharmacies are considered the main market for these types of products. Foreign companies have recently focused their marketing campaigns and strategies towards consumers and less towards pharmacies due to movement towards individual increased health awareness and consumer driven marketing.
The pharmacy sector in UAE has changed significantly in the last 5 years, from individually owned pharmacies to the concept of chain pharmacies. The move towards pharmacy chains has reshaped the pharmacy business due to the power of central purchasing.
Hypermarkets in UAE are highly sophisticated, and they are experiencing phenomenal growth. They will serve as important resellers for vitamins and supplements in the future as the population increasingly depends on these outlets for most shopping activity. The mass market is still at its early stages, unorganized and underdeveloped; there are only few brands.
All natural products, vitamins, minerals, herbs and nutraceuticals, must be registered with and approved by the Ministry of Health. All products and manufacturing sites must be Halal certified, with certification to be renewed on an annual basis. The UAE Ministry of Health has their own guidelines for the Dietary supplements registration called “Maximum Daily Dose (MDD). Products with concentrations below or equal to the MDD are classified as General Sales Product (GSP) and are freely priced. Products falling outside the GSP parameters are classified as “Pharmaceutical Product” (PP) and are priced accordingly. Lastly, GSP registration requirements are different than those for PPs.
The importing company and the manufacturing site have to be registered with the MOH after which they accept the product files for registration. This process can be completed within 12 months after submitting all requirements.
NHP Consulting will submit regulatory documents required for market compliance for the UAE market.