Medical tourism growth in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is gaining pace due to cost advantages, English-speaking medical staff and zero waiting period for treatment, which, in turn, will propel the domestic pharmaceutical market, says a report by GlobalData.
Titled ‘CountryFocus: Healthcare, Regulatory and Reimbursement Landscape – United Arab Emirates’, the report forecasts the UAE pharmaceutical market to witness a double-digit growth of more than 13%, from approximately $3 billion in 2015 to $5.7 billion by 2020.
The growth will also be aided by increasing healthcare expenditure, policies benefitting the industry such as mandatory health insurance for citizens and the Dubai Health Authority’s (DHA) efforts to develop the medical tourism sector.
The DHA plans to turn UAE into a medical tourism hub, with the aim of attracting 1.3 million medical tourists a year by 2021.
Furthermore, the stable political and economic environment of the UAE and the government’s encouragement of private healthcare industry through initiatives such as establishing special zones that offer full tax redemption and foreign ownership will benefit the industry.
Pharmaceutical companies, however, must be prepared to face threats such as the government lowering the price of drugs and the proliferation of counterfeit drugs, cautions the report.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that 35% of the pharmaceutical products in the Middle East may be illicit.
Inducing public confidence in health delivery systems, that is otherwise lost due to counterfeit drugs, will be a challenge to companies.