MERS boosts sales of preventive health products in Saudi Arabia

The increased demand is attributed to growing health awareness among the swelling populations of the Gulf countries

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Experts in the healthcare sector expect the demand for preventive medical care and products to increase by 100 percent in Saudi Arabia due to a perceived outbreak of the deadly coronavirus responsible for the Middle Respiratory Syndrome (MERS).

They estimate the value of the market at SR11 billion, of which the western region accounts for about 40 percent. Fahd Batterjee, member of the pharmaceutical committee at Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry (JCCI), said the demand is expected to rise for preventive medical care and products. He said the value of imports of these products at SR7 billion.

He noted that demand has increased for preventive medicines such as antibiotics and vitamins, in addition to all types of face masks. He cautioned against a black market for face masks.

Dr. Siraj Abed, deputy head of the pharmacists' club in Jeddah, said the elderly, pregnant women, children and asthma patients represent the largest percentage of buyers of preventive medicines and medical products.

He noted that these items usually represent only 10 percent of stocks in pharmacies, but have now become the most sought-after items.

He ruled out a black market for the products, saying these items are inspected by the Saudi Standards, Metrology and Quality Authority.

Bandar Riyad, sales manager at a pharmaceutical company, has stressed that demand for preventive products has increased by more than 200 percent from hospitals, polyclinics and pharmacies.

He added that there is a shortage of about 30 percent, but Saudi companies have the capabilities to cover that shortage.

The increased demand is attributed to growing health awareness among the swelling populations of the Gulf countries.

The urban expansion and an increase in per capita income in the Gulf countries has led to an increase in the consumption of unbalanced diet, coupled with a sedentary lifestyle.

This, in turn, has led to the spread of the so-called lifestyle diseases, such as diabetes and heart diseases.

This article was first published in the Saudi Gazette on May 5, 2014.

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