COVID-19 adversely affected global economies and industries across the board as a result of travel restrictions, to which the pharma industry was not immune to. However, though logistics and supply chains faced unprecedented challenges, the high demand for medical supplies and pharmaceutical equipment meant more business for the industry.
In an interview, Ahmed Abo Al Fadl, General Manager Gulf at Healthcare Business, Merck, said that one of the main effects of the pandemic on the industry was the paradigm shift it brought about in the form of a need for change, regulation amendments, changes in research and development procedures and the move of the healthcare industry towards telecommunication and telemedicine. Excerpts:
Digital technologies in the healthcare sector are evolving. How is the pharma industry adapting to these changes?
It is noteworthy that to support the technologically enhanced healthcare sector, pharmaceuticals are taking several steps towards implementing digital strategies by developing applications and devices to facilitate remote care and provide the ability to monitor patients’ adherence to treatment and to make the best-informed treatment decisions, adapting to the hybrid engagement model with healthcare professionals (HCPs), e-commerce platform to optimise the operations and many more among other innovations to keep pace and integrate digital health technologies in patients care.
Amid this march towards a digitally strong industry, we at Merck developed the Sukaree app, wherein digital technologies are employed to help patients and doctors to monitor and keep diabetes in check. We also announced the official launch of our e-commerce platform for healthcare professionals as a further embrace of the evolving digital technologies to better serve the community.
Pharma logistics plays an important role to drive growth in the sector. How is the UAE supporting this?
The UAE pharmaceutical sector is expanding rapidly. To achieve sustainable growth for this industry, the UAE government took some noteworthy steps by adopting a series of long-term plans including but not limited to the Dubai Industrial Strategy 2030 and the Abu Dhabi Vision 2030, both of which are designed to position the pharmaceutical industry as one of the main priority sub-sectors.
The UAE is focusing on drawing international pharmaceutical companies to establish and expand their presence in the country and has created several free zones across the country that have become hubs for the pharmaceutical industry, including Dubai Healthcare City, Dubai Science Park, and Jebel Ali Free Zone. These free zones facilitate and streamline shipping and other logistical needs. Case in point, we ship our products to Yemen from our UAE freezone warehouse due to the ease of shipping from the UAE compared to Europe. Additionally, the Dubai Silk Road Strategy, launched by Dubai’s Crown Prince Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, seeks to establish Dubai as a global trade and logistics hub, which in turn is a golden opportunity for the pharma sector as it is designed on a blockchain platform to eliminate key complexities and weaknesses in the global trading system.
Ahmed Abo Al Fadl
What factors will lead to the growth of the pharma industry in the UAE and across the GCC?
There is no contest to the fact that the future is digital. I believe data and data-driven decisions will govern the coming few years for the pharma industry through digital capabilities and the ability to innovate in the way the industry functions.
We are also continuously keeping an eye out for the needs of patients and people at large on digital platforms to further evolve and hone our research initiatives, thus keeping pace with the technological innovations to meet and surpass the requirements.
What are the major healthcare market segments likely to expand this year?
Telehealth and telemedicine will see huge growth in the coming years as the world prepares for a more digitally empowered future. Innovations, such as blockchain, fintech, artificial intelligence and machine learning will also play a big role in the pharma industry of the future.
This article appears in the latest issue of Omnia Health Magazine. Read the full issue online today.