Pfizer starts production at $50M plant in Saudi Arabia

Pfizer is starting production at a new $50 million plant in Saudi Arabia.

The Middle East is seen as one of the emerging markets that offer drugmakers better-than-average returns. Pfizer, which was one of the first to act on that opportunity, has now officially opened a plant in Saudi Arabia that it began planning more than 5 years ago.

The $50 million, 11,108 square meter (119,565 square foot) manufacturing and packaging facility is slated to begin production on 16 products, according to a release provided by Pfizer and published in the Saudi Gazette. Those drugs include cardiovascular, pain, anti-infective, urology and neurology products.

The plant is in King Abdullah Economic City (KAEC) on the west coast of the Red Sea, north of Jeddah. It will employ about 125 people, half of them Saudi nationals. Pfizer began discussions on the plant in 2011.

“This facility... allows us to develop local manufacturing expertise and capabilities to help meet our shared commitment with the government to provide a continued reliable supply of innovative and essential medicines for patients in Saudi Arabia,” Hussein El Hakim, country manager for Pfizer Saudi Limited, said in a statement.  

The plant is not Pfizer’s only effort to sell in the country. The U.S. drugmaker in 2014 struck a deal with Tabuk Pharmaceuticals that gave the Saudi-based company exclusive rights to manufacture and sell in the kingdom "second brand" versions of four Pfizer drugs.

Saudi Arabia has created incentives to attract pharma manufacturing and a host of foreign companies, including AbbVie, Boehringer Ingelheim and Cipla, have projects underway in the country.