AbbVie partners with Arabio for production in Saudi Arabia

AbbVie will partner with Arabio to manufacture Humira and other drugs in Saudi Arabia.--Courtesy of AbbVie

As growth has slowed in some emerging markets, Western drugmakers are looking to second- and third-tier emerging markets to gain momentum. The Middle East has become the new hot spot for pharma, and AbbVie ($ABBV) has found its way there.

The maker of Humira, the world's best-selling drug, will partner with the Arab Company for Pharmaceutical Products (Arabio) to manufacture Humira and other drugs in Saudi Arabia.

"Localizing the production of some of our key therapies in partnership with leading local pharmaceutical companies is one of our priorities in Saudi Arabia," Rami Fayed, general manager, Saudi Arabia, AbbVie, said during an event to kick off the company's operations in the country, according to Arab News. In addition to Humira, the drugmaker intends to make cancer and kidney treatments and others there.

Majed Saeed Bahatheq, general manager and CEO of Arabio, said the agreement is a "realization of [the] Saudi Arabia government to develop biological manufacturing capabilities in Saudi Arabia."

Until recently, most countries in the Middle East have had to import many drugs. So, governments in the area are anxious to attract foreign drugmakers and are offering economic incentives to do that.

Pfizer ($PFE) is building a plant in Saudi Arabia, expected to come online in 2015 to make a number of the company's drugs. Sanofi ($SNY), Merck KGaA's Serono division, Merck & Co. ($MRK), Novo Nordisk ($NVO), Eli Lilly ($LLY) and Bayer are among those that are establishing production and distribution operations, as well as sales and marketing efforts throughout the region.

Diabetes is of particular concern, and Merck KGaA tapped Neopharma, a domestic drugmaker in the United Arab Emirates, as its manufacturing partner and recently started turning out the standard diabetes treatment metformin there. U.S.-based Merck & Co. joined a venture to build a $93 million insulin plant in Bahrain, to start production in 2015.

- read the Arab News story