A drugs manufacturer in Dubai has developed a cheaper version of a typically very expensive medication used to treat multiple sclerosis.
LIFEPharma, the pharmaceutical arm of VPS Healthcare, developed a generic version of the widely-used Fingolimod.
The development will bring relief to MS patients, most of whom's insurance does not cover the cost of the daily tablets.
Fingolimod typically costs patients about Dh13,000 per month. That is the price for one box, which contains 28 tablets. The same quantity of the generic drug costs only Dh8,775, reducing the treatment cost by around 33 per cent.
It will be the first time the generic drug is developed and introduced into the UAE market.
MS is a chronic autoimmune disorder that occurs when the immune system attacks the protective sheath surrounding the nerve fibres, causing communication issues between the brain and the body. This deterioration of the nerves can lead to weakness in the body, loss of mobility and loss of sight.
It is not contagious but its cause is not completely known. Most people have the disease diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 50 but it can also appear in children.
Multiple sclerosis is particularly prevalent in the UAE, affecting 64 per 100,000 people in Abu Dhabi alone - more than twice the World Health Organisation's global prevalence estimate of 30 per 100,000.
Fingolimod, sold under the brand name Gilenya, does not cure MS but it can slow the progression of the degenerative disease. MS treatments are typically lifelong and expensive, particularly if not covered by insurance.
For example, an MS patient would require 13 boxes of Fingolimod a year which is around Dh156,000 per year. According to the latest market research data available, 2,816 boxes of Fingolimod were sold in the UAE in 2020.
“We are proud to have launched the first generic version of Fingolimod in the UAE. The value of our generic Fingolimod runs deep," Dr Magdy Fahmy, chief executive of LIFEPharma, said.
"This would improve the quality of life of the people and reduce the burden of the treatment cost."
LIFEPharma is producing Fingolimod in its manufacturing plant in Dubai for local use and to export to other countries in the Gulf and Middle East.