Sameh Darwazeh, founder and chairman of Hikma, delivers his speech during the Middle East Generic Medicine Conference held on Wednesday on Yas Island in Abu Dhabi. Image Credit: Ravindranath/Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: A senior official at the Health Authority-Abu Dhabi (HAAD) has called for the introduction of cost-effective drugs across Abu Dhabi through a strategy that does not compromise patient safety.

Speaking to Gulf News at at the first annual Middle East Generic Medicine Conference, Dr Mohammad Abu Al Khair, section head of HAAD's Drugs and Medical Products Regulation Department, said UAE pharmaceutical sales were amongst the highest in the world.

The usage of pharmaceutical products in the UAE has grown at a rate of 21 per cent per annum above the world average.

Ten key health regulators from eight Middle East and North Africa (Mena) countries, World Health Organisation (WHO) delegates, and 20 pharmaceutical companies took part in the two-day conference.

The conference discussed the need to establish a Middle East Generic Association (Mega) to support the use of cost effective medicines without compromising the safety of patients.

Common platform

According to Dr Al Khair, the association is expected to function as a common platform among regulatory bodies and the pharmaceutical industry across the Mena region. It will help ensure sustainable health care.

The total revenue from drug sales across the UAE stands at $1.2 billion a year (Dh4.4 billion), the HAAD official said, adding that 25 per cent of this was from sale of generic drugs, known as generics in short.

Generic drugs are medicines prescribed or sold under the non-proprietary name of their active ingredients or under a generally descriptive name rather than under a brand or trade name. They can only be produced after a patent on a drug expires.

Generics are of same quality as branded drugs, but less expensive due to lower cost involved in the research and development of the product.

B.R. Shetty, chief executive officer of the NMC Group in Abu Dhabi, concurred with conference sentiments that the prices of drugs in the UAE are substantially higher than in other global markets and need to be reduced.