(MENAFN - Arab News) A leading pharmaceutical company warned that the prevalence of diabetes has climbed steeply in Saudi Arabia during the last few years, and over 19 percent of the adult population is suffering from this disease at the moment.
"The Kingdom, where around 2.8 million people have been diagnosed with diabetes, has the seventh highest rate in the world in terms of diabetes incidence," said Dr. Wail Al-Qassim, general manager at Merck Sharp & Dohme (MSD yesterday.
He pointed out that the total number of people suffering from diabetes would come close to 5.5 million by 2030, if the incidence continues to increase at the current rate.
Al-Qassim said that an estimated 1.2 million Saudi citizens live with the disease but are yet to be diagnosed. He expressed his concerns over the growing prevalence of diabetes in Saudi Arabia and the Arab world. He said that more than SR 12 billion was spent every year on diabetes in Saudi Arabia. On a regional level, about SR 21 billion is spent on diabetes health care every year.
"We strongly believe in the need to raise awareness about diseases," said A-Qassim, adding that MSD has a strategic partnership with the Ministry of Health, particularly in the area of diabetes. Its objective is to support health care providers' efforts to treat chronic diseases and to stop or slow down the increased prevalence of diabetes by identifying current challenges. These initiatives are designed to increase patient's awareness, empower patients to ensure self-management and improve disease management, he added.
Asked about the regulatory provisions of the GCC countries, when it comes to the importation, registration and approval of various drugs, he pointed out that the Gulf states, including the Kingdom, were working to modernize the regulatory and registration systems to harmonize them with international standards. "However, these reforms are still ongoing and we expect further enhancement of the processes leading to earlier access to newer therapies," he said.
Al-Qassim said the registration and approval process of any new product could take up to two to three years from the submission of the file. This is a long period when Saudi Arabia is compared to other countries in the region, he noted. The Saudi Food & Drug Authority (SFDA) is looking at the possibility to clear a drug within six to nine months for sale in the Saudi market, he added.
The whole process to develop a new prescription medicine is very expensive and tiring, said Al-Qassim. "It costs about 800 million (SR 3,000 million) to research and develop a new medicine," he said. But, only one out of a million potential new medicines screened by scientists at such high cost will ever make it to the pharmacist's shelf, he noted.