x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Julphar to produce insulin this year

Gulf Pharmaceuticals confirms it will start producing insulin by the end of the year

Gulf Pharmaceutical Industries (Julphar) has confirmed it will start making insulin by December, earlier than expected.

By making insulin locally, the company aims to lower costs and ensure supply for the growing number of diabetes sufferers in the region.

Julphar, which is based in Ras al Khaimah, will begin construction of an insulin plant in the summer to become operational in December, at a total cost of Dh500 million (US$136.1m), said Dr Ayman al Sahli, its chief executive.

When the plant was announced last year, it was expected to be up and running by next year at the earliest.

Greater supply of insulin is crucial for governments across the region because the disease can often lead to other health issues.

"Diabetes is the root of all evil," Dr al Sahli said. "If you have diabetes you may develop heart problems and other diseases."

The lower production costs will mean lower costs to governments and insurance companies that pay for the drugs.

About 90 per cent of the pharmaceuticals in the UAE are imported, which can lead to high prices and critical shortages.

Diabetes is one of the UAE's top health concerns, with one in four nationals displaying evidence of the condition, Government statistics show.

Demand for insulin is expected to grow across the region due to the high prevalence of obesity.

About 25 per cent of Emirati men and almost 40 per cent of women nationals are classified as obese and are therefore at higher risk of developing diabetes.

"This is a life-saving drug so it is important to maintain supply," Dr al Sahli said.

Part of the company's wider expansion of the drugs it offers, the new facility will have the capacity to produce more than 50 million vials of insulin.

A plant to make specialist creams and ointments is also in the pilot stage and will be completed by the end of the year at an estimated cost of Dh65m.

The company will be able to produce 50 million tubes of burns ointment, which will meet the Middle East's needs, Dr al Sahli said.

Work is under way on a Dh20m facility for injected medicines such as Epoetin, which is used in treating anaemia.

Julphar was established in 1984 under the patronage of the late Ruler of Ras al Khaimah Sheikh Saqr bin Mohammed, and has grown into an exporter to 40 markets.

rjones@thenational.ae