The Road to a Healthier Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia has embarked on a bold initiative to diversify its economy and encourage foreign investment in a number of critical sectors, including health and life sciences.
Through the Saudi Vision 2030 and National Transformation Program (NTP) 2020, Saudi Arabia has refocused its investment in health and developed an efficient, state-run health system. The NTP aims to increase the share of private sector involvement in the health sector to improve the quality of care, promote competition and focus on key health threats, including the increase in deaths from non-communicable diseases (NCDs).
Further, new investments made through the NTP will help Saudi Arabia meet future health needs and decrease economic and social strains across generations. Over the last several years, the Kingdom has taken progressive steps toward strengthening protections for intellectual property – a necessity for any country seeking to attract innovation and investment.
But while the NTP has its benefits, challenges still remain.
Non-communicable diseases account for about 73%of all deaths in the Kingdom, often resulting from high rates of obesity, tobacco use and inactive lifestyles. Saudi Arabia’s growing aging population is also placing increased financial burdens on health systems and infrastructure.
But recent actions by health authorities have weakened intellectual property (IP) protections that support biopharmaceutical research. These developments threaten the overall investment climate in Saudi Arabia, jeopardize the policy goals of the government and diminish commercial opportunities for Saudi citizens.
Saudi Arabia is a key economic market in the heart of the Middle East and North Africa. And while Crown Prince Mohammad and his economic team have introduced widespread reforms to promote long-term growth and diversification including the privatization of hospitals and a new health insurance market, opportunities remain for Saudi officials to work with investors and innovators to ensure the Kingdom rightfully protects and enforces IP rights.
There are thousands of new medicines and treatments in development across a range of chronic diseases and cutting-edge research in gene therapy, genomics and personalized medicine – areas that the Kingdom is specifically seeking to attract investment and talent. Through dialogue and collaboration, the Kingdom can achieve its health goals, improve its investment reputation and position itself as a regional leader in health.