Neopharma to build plant in Saudi Arabia

B.R. Shetty

Saudi Arabia has attracted a number of Western drugmakers interested in producing drugs there. Now Neopharma, based next door in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), will build a plant in a new industrial city being developed in the south of the country.

B.R. Shetty, who controls both Neopharma and New Medical Center Group of Companies, has pledged to spend 1 billion Saudi riyals ($266.5 million) to build both a drug manufacturing facility and a hospital in Jazan City, Al Arabiya News reports.

To encourage the drug manufacturing development, the government will donate the land for the plant. It also will get what Prince Turki Bin Mohammed Bin Nasser, director of international trade at the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, called "interest-free soft loans for 20 years" from the state-owned Saudi Industrial Development Fund to cover 75% of the cost of the project. "The government's policy is to encourage and support foreign investors to play a great role in developing our economy," he said in a press conference.

Shetty said the facility will focus on drugs for treating cancer and dengue fever. "Our thrust will be on making available halal medicine in the Saudi local market," Al Arabiya reports.

Saudi Arabia and other countries in the Mideast and Persian Gulf areas have been attracting more production facilities as Western drugmakers look for faster-growing markets than they have at home. Pfizer ($PFE) is building a 32,000-square-meter facility in Rabigh on the western coast of Saudi Arabia. It is slated to be operating next year and will be able to produce 18 million packs per year. The U.S. drugmaker also recently gave Saudi Arabia-based Tabuk Pharmaceuticals exclusive rights to manufacture and sell in the kingdom "second brand" versions of four Pfizer drugs. Pfizer will get the rights to 12 of Tabuk's generic drugs.

AbbVie ($ABBV) has reached a deal to have Arabio manufacturer its blockbuster arthritis drug Humira and other drugs in Saudi Arabia. Boehringer Ingelheim in May struck its own deal with Tabuk, which, along with Saudi Arabia-based Cigalah, will manage and handle secondary packaging projects for 26 Boehringer Ingelheim products in that country. Neopharma provides production for some Western drugmakers in the region, making Merck KGaA's diabetes drug Glucophage, as well as its thyroid medicine Euthyrox in the UAE.

- read the Al Arabiya news story