What International companies need to know to distribute pharmaceuticals in the UAE

by Vanessa Delnaud, Principal Associate, Gowling WLG (UK) LLP

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The healthcare industry is a priority sector for the UAE government, which continues to increase its spending in the development of high standard healthcare services in the country, notwithstanding the bearish oil market.

Likewise, the UAE's pharmaceutical market is rapidly expanding. The prevalence of chronic lifestyle diseases in the region such as obesity and diabetes, and the development of medical tourism, contribute to this continuing growth, and the UAE currently imports between 85% and 90% of its pharmaceutical products. The value of the pharmaceutical market in the UAE is projected to reach around 3.7 billion USD by 2020 (i.e. an 8.2% growth per year).

The healthcare industry is strictly regulated at both the Federal and Emirate level. International (i.e. non-UAE) pharmaceutical companies seeking to import and distribute pharmaceutical products in the UAE require considered local advice to navigate the regulatory paths.

In this article, we examine what "medicines" fall under the auspice of the Pharmaceuticals Law, how to register medicinal products with the MoH, how and to whom a Pharmaceutical Import Licence and distribution registration may be awarded, and the key considerations regarding promotion (including packaging, labelling and advertising) of medicines that stakeholders should be aware of.

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