Billions of tablets produced in the UAE will be exported to Canada and America in one of the largest pharmaceutical deals in the region’s history.
A 10-year contract worth Dh200 million was signed this week by LIFEPharma, a subsidiary of UAE based VPS Healthcare, to produce drugs in the fight against Motor Neurone Disease.
About 120 million tablets and medicines for various ailments will be manufactured annually, at the company’s medical lab in Jebel Ali, and exported under a new agreement with Canada’s largest producer of generic drugs, Apotex Inc.
Dr Shamsheer Vayalil, chairman and managing director of VPS Healthcare, said the partnership was a landmark moment as it will break new ground for the UAE in international markets.
“This project represents an important milestone in the strategy to make the UAE a global hub for knowledge-based, sustainable and innovative industries,” he said.
“None of these therapeutics have ever been manufactured in the UAE or the GCC for export — or at these volumes — to North American markets before.”
The products include medication used to treat a certain type of Motor Neurone Disease, commonly called Lou Gehrig's disease.
Although incurable, the degenerative disease can be managed with the right drugs to prolong quality of life.
It affects around 1 in 100,000 people and often begins with a weakness in the hands, feet or voice.
Following a diagnosis, people become increasingly disabled with just 10 per cent expected to live with the condition for longer than 10 years.
The disease is more commonly found in men and symptoms usually appear after the age of 40.
Medication can be taken to slow the decline in patients and reduce painful muscle spasms.
Drugs produced in the UAE could bring relief to thousands of MND patients in Canada and North America each year.
Other products manufactured in Dubai include medications to treat symptoms of Parkinson's disease and an antiviral drug used in the treatment of hepatitis B virus infections.
Exports will also include a medicine used to treat partial seizures and a synthetic antibiotic used for the treatment of infections caused by multi-resistant bacteria.
However, the same drugs will not yet be available in the UAE due to licensing restrictions.
LIFEPharma’s Jebel Ali manufacturing plant is the country’s sole facility certified by the US Food and Drug Administration.
It has the capacity to produce a billion tablets, 300 million capsules and 30 million liquids per year.
The company is also the first in the UAE approved to manufacture and ship medication to markets in the UK, Australia, South Africa, Portugal and Taiwan — nations with some of the most stringent regulatory requirements.
As Canada’s largest drug manufacturer, Apotex, exports more than 25 billion medication doses a year, to 115 countries and territories.
“This partnership is an important milestone, not only for LIFEPharma and VPS Healthcare, but also for the UAE,” said Dr Vayalil.
“The pharmaceutical manufacturing industry is an innovation-led, value-based growth engine for the UAE’s economy.
“It combines the prowess of advanced technologies with the expertise of highly-skilled professionals, allowing the UAE to successfully compete in the global marketplace and move beyond its current trade and logistics standing.”
Medicines manufactures in UAE for export include:
Deferosirox — iron chelating agent for blood disorders
Rasagiline — Parkinson's disease medication
Entacavir — antiviral (Hepatitis B)
Linezolid — antibiotic
Gabapentin — epilepsy
Riluzole — amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
Abacavir — anti retroviral (HIV)
Vardenafil — erectile dysfunction
Abacavir — lamivudine-zidovudine, anti retroviral (HIV)