Jordan's MS Pharma gets $30M to expand manufacturing there

Western drugmakers have been finding their way into the Middle East and North Africa, a market they see as having a lot of upside potential. But they are being met by some domestic companies, which are expanding operations in an effort to take on this competition. Among those is MS Pharma, which is now expanding manufacturing in Jordan with a loan from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD).

Heike Harmgart

The $30 million EBRD loan will be used by the generic drug maker to upgrade manufacturing and expand its capacity, as well as venture into making oncology, cardiovascular, central nervous system and respiratory treatments, according to the Jordan news agency Petra. "This cooperation will contribute to the development of Jordan as a pharmaceutical manufacturing hub in the region and will help boost the production of vital medicines," the news service quoted Heike Harmgart, who heads the bank in Jordan.

MS Pharma was created in 2011 with the consolidation of a number of drug operations throughout the Middle East and North African region. It has operations in countries that include Iraq, Palestine, Algeria, Morocco, Bahrain and Yemen, among others. Petra notes that locally produced drugs are scarce in the MENA region, but Jordan is home to Hikma, a drugmaker with operations throughout the region as well as the world. Hikma's business includes West-Ward Pharmaceuticals and its manufacturing operations in the U.S.

Western drugmakers have been making calculated moves in the region as well. Pfizer ($PFE) will open a plant in Saudi Arabia this year while AbbVie ($ABBV) is partnering with the Arab Company for Pharmaceutical Products (Arabio) to manufacture its blockbuster Humira and other products there. Merck KGaA's Serono division has teamed up with Neopharma, a domestic drugmaker in the U.A.E., as a manufacturing partner and recently started turning out the standard diabetes treatment metformin there. U.S.-based Merck ($MRK) joined a venture to build a $93 million insulin plant in Bahrain to start production this year.

Westerners are not the only drugmakers wanting to get a foothold in the region. Indian drugmaker Cipla has been particularly active in the area, striking small deals to secure local production. Last month it said it would invest $15 million in a joint venture with some local producers in Morocco to build a manufacturing operation there. It also announced deals in Iran and Yemen last year.

- read the Petra story