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Astellas aims to introduce cancer medicines in UAE

The Japanese drug maker Astellas is looking to introduce one of its best-selling cancer medicines in the UAE – and to start manufacturing drugs in the country by 2019.

From its Dubai office, which opened on Thursday, it plans to market its products in the Middle East, North Africa and sub- Saharan Africa. The Tokyo-listed company expects to enter Tunisia, Morocco, Nigeria and Ghana from Dubai.

Astellas looks to start two registries in the UAE in the next few months collecting data from local hospitals and doctors on prostate cancer and leukaemia as a precursor to launching its medicines for the diseases here.

In five years, Astellas expects to start a manufacturing unit and clinical trials for medicines in the UAE, its officials said .

While most of its medicines in the UAE and Gulf region are imported from Europe, it manufactures some of its urology medicines in Saudi Arabia.

“Our short-term goal is to bring our innovative cancer medicines here,” said Markus Weber, the general manager for the company’s Middle East, North Africa and sub-Saharan Africa affiliate. That includes Xtandi, a prostate cancer drug. The drug, which launched in 2012 in the United States, brought ¥18.8 billion (Dh585 million) in sales for the US market alone in the third quarter, according to the Japanese company.

“The Middle East pharma market should offer a bigger business opportunity for Astellas, and their global performnance will be good because of new prostate cancer drug Xtandi,” said Fumiyoshi Sakai, an analyst at Credit Suisse in Tokyo.

In the UAE, the inflation rate in medical care was 0.66 per cent in September. That is below the inflation rate for this year at 1.11 per cent. The UAE Ministry of Health, which sets the cost of drugs, cut the prices of 422 drugs in September in an effort to check runaway medical costs. Last year, it lowered prices of 6,632 medicines by about 40 per cent.

Astellas already distributes 11 medicines in dermatology, oncology, urology and transplantation in the UAE. It has around four more in the registration process expected to hit the market in the next two years.

About 20 per cent of Astellas’ total revenues from the Middle East, North Africa and sub-Saharan Africa come from the Gulf region, according to Ken Jones, the president and chief executive of Astellas for Europe, the Middle East and Africa region. The Menasa turnover is €100 million (Dh460.3m).

About 95 per cent of the medicines in the Arabian Gulf is imported because of “insufficient manufacturing facilities and expertise” here, according to Alpen Capital.

The region’s healthcare market is expected to touch US$69.4 billion by 2018 compared with $39.4bn last year, increasing by 12 per cent a year, it said.

Last year, the Spanish drug maker Cinfa opened an office in Dubai to increase its presence in the region for its branded generic medicines.

This May, Abu Dhabi-based Neopharma tied up with Wyeth, a Pfizer unit, to manufacture cardiovascular medicines that will be available in the UAE next year. They will be available in other Gulf countries eventually.

The same month, the French manufacturer Sanofi acquired a majority stake in the Dubai Investments drug maker Globalpharma.

And in April, Ras Al Khaimah’s Gulf Pharmaceutical Industries (Julphar) entered an agreement with MSD, an unit of Merck, under which it can produce, distribute and sell select MSD products in the UAE, Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman, Qatar and Iraq.

sell select MSD products in the UAE, Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman, Qatar and Iraq.

Sananda Sahoo
November 20, 2014 Updated:
The National