Interview: Fahad Al Shebel

How does the private sector help improve efficiency in the local health sector?

FAHAD AL SHEBEL: Health care in Saudi Arabia offers substantial opportunities for growth, as evidenced by the interest of major international firms entering the sector. The local market is the largest in the region, and there is significant scope for further investment.

The Kingdom is actively working to involve private players further in the management of the sector, following the Ministry of Health’s development of a network of government hospitals, along with the Council of Ministers’ establishment of the Health Holding Company and the National Health Insurance Centre, both of which are set to boost the performance of the health care system. There are key opportunities for the private sector to meet patients’ needs and medical projects are being developed to construct modern, environmentally friendly hospitals. Key developments in areas such as artificial intelligence, robotic surgery and modern technologies for patient rehabilitation are generating investment opportunities and improved health outcomes.

NUPCO has been working on agreements to provide its services to private health entities, with the number of such agreements having reached 135. NUPCO also supports private health care providers through Marketplace, an e-commerce platform that displays competitive prices for pharmaceuticals, medical devices and supplies, as well as product information and expected delivery time. This enables health entities to carry out their procurement operations and complementary requests.

What more can be done to raise the level of pharmaceutical security and ensure the availability of devices and medical supplies?

AL SHEBEL: Pharmaceutical security refers to the ability of a country to secure a sufficient amount of essential pharmaceuticals, whether in times of prosperity or adversity. This concept includes the provision of medicines and vaccines.

It is imperative to provide sustainable health care services to transform the field of medical supply services, in cooperation with strategic partners. We seek to enhance suppliers’ commitments through stronger control mechanisms and modern technologies to achieve an optimal level of health care operations. NUPCO’s services in medical supply chains, as well as logistical operations services, help ensure the availability of pharmaceuticals, medical devices and supplies, and achieve pharmaceutical security. Another priority is facilitating health care providers’ access to pharmaceutical devices and medical supplies, both through Marketplace and direct procurement.

Where do you see opportunities to support global medical suppliers in local content development?

AL SHEBEL: Saudi Arabia encourages investment that stimulates the private sector in order to further develop the pharmaceutical industry and support local content. This is done through strategic partnerships with the Local Content and Government Procurement Authority and with the Government Expenditure and Projects Efficiency Authority. These collaborations serve both the public and private health sectors, and contribute to increasing the shares of local manufacturers in pharmaceutical procurement. Flexible and transparent procurement policies with suppliers are essential to ensure the adequate storage of strategic medicines.

These collaborations have resulted in tender awards amounting to SR 4.5bn ($1.2bn) to local manufacturers in 2022, which represents around 85% of the total value of local manufacturers’ offers. This approach strengthens NUPCO’s role in supporting local content, empowering the health care sector to expand, encouraging local manufacturing and enhancing pharmaceutical security for Saudi Arabia.