Johnson & Johnson looks to grow presence in Middle East

Johnson & Johnson’s pharmaceutical unit is looking to expand its drugs portfolio and business in the UAE and Arabian Gulf from its Dubai hub.

The US major’s office started operations last month from Dubai Healthcare City, where it has a staff of 70 people. It employs 300 people in the Arabian Gulf.

“The fast-growing population here, and prevalence of certain diseases aligned with our portfolio such as type II diabetes and infectious diseases, makes this an important region and more so in the future,” said Jane Griffiths, the group chairwoman for Europe, Middle East and Africa for Janssen Pharmaceutical, a unit of Johnson & Johnson.

“It’s an emerging healthcare system here and we need to understand the regulatory environment, particularly the pricing environment.”

The UAE is among its top 10 countries in Europe, the Middle East and Africa in terms of sales growth.

Janssen is in talks with local government agencies to partner in the delivery of health care, including research and development.

The Ministry of Health, Federal Health Insurance Authority, Dubai Health Authority and Health Authority Abu Dhabi regulate healthcare service providers in the UAE.

These agencies have also tied up with entities such as Cleveland Clinic, GE Healthcare and Johns Hopkins to address issues such as those in medical IT infrastructure, diabetes and non-communicable disease prevention.

“The government here spends 3 to 4 per cent of the GDP on health care. That is much less than in the western countries, and that needs to improve,” Ms Griffiths said.

The Middle East and North Africa region spends about 4 per cent of its GDP, or US$329 per person, on health care, compared to 14.3 per cent, or $3,373, by the Americas and 9.3 per cent, or $2,217, by Europe, according to Al Masah Capital report last year. In the Mena region, the UAE, Jordan, Tunisia and Bahrain spend the most on health care.

The UAE spent about $11.3 billion on health care in 2011, the most recent figure.

Runaway medical costs, however, have led the UAE Government to cut prices of medicines over the past few years.

“Innovative medicines should have a place in the government portfolio,” Ms Griffiths said. “If we can control type II diabetes, we can offset costs somewhere else. It’s about looking at prices holistically.”

A manufacturing unit in Dubai is yet make it to the planning stage for Janssen.

“We are looking at that. It depends on cost efficiency, skills, competency and availability of people here,” she said.

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Sananda Sahoo

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