Healthcare Resource Guide: Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia



Policy Issues

Market Entry

Current Market


Main Competitors

Current Demand

Registration Process



Government Procurement

Trade Events


Best Prospects

CS Contacts

Market Size

Capital: Riyadh

Population:32.20 million (2016)

GDP*: $646.4 Billion (2016)

Currency: Saudi Riyals (US$1 = SAR 3.75)

Language: Arabic (official); English (widely spoken)


The Saudi health care sector is the largest in the Near East. Education and healthcare spending still accounts for the largest share of the Saudi 2017 budget, at more than 36 percent of the total budget. With the drop in oil revenues, however, the Saudi Government scaled back the levels of spending across the board. However, the budget for healthcare and social development increased nearly $5 billion to reach a total of $32 billion. Public spending still dominates at 79 percent, though the private sector is quickly catching up and growing at a faster pace, mainly due to the recently launched National Transformation Program (NTP), which aims, among other objectives, to expand the privatization of government services, including healthcare.

Saudi Arabia's healthcare landscape will continue to evolve as the government pursues reforms in the sector. Boosting health cooperation initiatives will be a central part of the Kingdom's economic diversification efforts, intended to reduce its dependence on the public sector. The healthcare sector contributed $20.8 billion to the Kingdom’s GDP in 2015. The sector is projected to grow by 13.7 percent by 2025. Recently, the government decided to privatize all its public hospitals and introduce a comprehensive insurance system for Saudi citizens.

Imports accounted for more than 92 percent of the market at $1.8 billion, and American companies top the list of suppliers with a 21 percent share of total imports. Local manufacturing is still limited to consumables including bandages, gloves, syringes, and some furniture including non-electrical beds. The NTP envisages boosting and supporting foreign investments in the health care sector, especially for pharmaceuticals and medical devices.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia accounts for 59.4 percent of the purchases of pharmaceuticals products in the Gulf region and will remain a key market for many leading multinational pharmaceutical companies in the Middle East. In addition to the demographic and epidemiological driving factors, the transition to an increasingly privatized and comprehensive healthcare system will drive the demand for both patented and generic drugs. Although government procurement of pharmaceuticals aims to promote local manufacturing and replace many research-based medicines with generics, patients in Saudi Arabia favor branded products since most medicines can be acquired without a doctor’s prescription meaning consumers can easily exercise their preference for branded medicines.

Spending on the Health IT sector is expected to maintain positive growth, especially to finalize various government projects including the standard e-Health card, patient digital records, doctors’ prescriptions, and insurance claims available online, at any healthcare facility Kingdom-wide. Industry sources estimate annual spending on modernizing and upgrading the e-Health infrastructure at $500 million, likely to double in the years ahead if the budget permits. One of the NTP’s objectives is to increase the percentage of patients with a digital health record from 0 percent to 70 percent by 2020.

Policy Issues

The Government of Saudi Arabia seeks to expand the private sector’s role in providing healthcare services under its Vision 2030 and its National Transformation Program. Some goals include plans to expand the privatization of government services, incorporate health IT and digital records and increase percentage of patients with a digital health record from 0% to 70% by 2020, double qualified Saudi nurses by 2020, and increase the number of licensed medical facilities from 40 to 100 by 2020. While the market remains attractive for companies, low oil prices have resulted in an increased risk that companies may not receive timely payments.

Market Entry

Although American exporters are not required to appoint a local Saudi agent or distributor to sell to Saudi companies, it is strongly recommended that all new-to-market U.S. companies consider partnering with a local company for the purposes of monitoring business opportunities, navigating import and standard testing regulations, and identifying public sector sales and contract opportunities.

The U.S. Department of Commerce in Saudi Arabia regularly assists U.S. product and service exporters to identify market opportunities and qualified business partners. It also provides advocacy and commercial diplomacy services to U.S. firms and promotes greater transparency in commercial matters and public procurement by engaging Saudi regulatory and standards bodies and Saudi public institutions.

Medical equipment is charged a 5 percent customs duty; in some instances, however, imported equipment is exempt from this duty, notably if the shipment is bound for a government entity and/or a government project.

Current Market Trends

Based on data from industry and the World Health Organization (WHO), Saudi Arabia, like other countries in the Arabian Gulf, continues to exhibit lifestyle change trends within its morbidity statistics. Non-communicable diseases, such as diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and cancer have become the main causes of death, estimated to account for more than 78 percent of total deaths. Additionally, the Kingdom has one of the world’s highest rates of traffic accidents, ranked at 23rd globally with a car accident occurring every second, while 17 people are killed in crashes every day on average.

The demand for healthcare products and services is mainly driven by government initiatives and affluent lifestyle changes – 20 percent of nationals over the age of 20 are now suffering from type-2 diabetes, 35 percent of Saudi adults are obese, and more than 6.5 percent of nationals have high blood pressure.

In turn, those figures have been the key drivers for various equipment and services, namely:

  • Emergency & trauma equipment
  • Rehabilitation equipment
  • Diagnostic equipment
  • Electro-medical equipment
  • Hospital beds
  • Orthopedic appliances and prosthesis
  • Dental equipment
  • Laboratory equipment
  • Hospital operation and management
  • E-Health
  • Generic pharmaceuticals

The public sector dominates the supply of health care services in Saudi Arabia and accounts for the majority of healthcare expenditures. The public healthcare sector represents approximately 79 percent of bed capacity. Industry sources expect the private sector to grow at a faster pace than the government sector, enhanced by the latest government policies to encourage more private sector involvement in the provision of healthcare services. The latest figures suggest that the MoH bed capacity will almost reach 73,768 beds by 2020; the private sector will add 13,875 beds raising its capacity to 26,000 by 2020, while other government organizations will total 20,000 beds in 2020.

The number of hospital beds currently stand at 68,000 for all hospitals in Saudi Arabia the number is expected to grow to 119,000 beds by 2020. Moreover, a private group of investors is developing Riyadh’s Medical Village over a 250,000 sq. m. area, consisting of eight 130-bed hospitals, 60 outpatient clinics, and other amenities and services. Currently, 117 new hospitals with a capacity of 24,000 beds as well as 3 medical cities for the security and military sectors are under construction, which will bring 14,500 additional beds.

Notwithstanding, the Saudi Government’s tenth five-year development plan (2015-2019) stipulates the following objectives:

  • Improving emergency medical services
  • Improving SFDA control and supervisory services
  • Enhancing the application of cooperative health insurance
  • Provide training and developing the skills of workforce
  • Improving the performance efficiency of management and operation systems
  • Improving healthcare services for the special-needs groups
  • Reviewing the regulations related with medical malfunctions and violations
  • Improving healthcare safety
  • Encouraging health establishments to obtain international accreditation.
  • Establishing more primary health care centers and specialized curative services
  • Improving the quality of health services provided to children, the aged and the disabled, and expanding home health care for the aged and disabled persons
  • Increasing the role of the private sector in provision of health services and expanding the scope of medicines and medical appliances manufacturing
  • Enhancing the e-health system and the supporting information systems, and expanding the scope of their use
  • Developing the preventive and curative health services provided to pilgrims and Omra performers and ensuring Haj seasons free of diseases and epidemics

Selling to the Government

In Saudi Arabia, every government agency has its own full contracting authority. So, foreign companies interested in bidding on a government project must make themselves known to that specific government agency/ministry offering the project. When a project becomes available, the government agency/ministry selects bidders from a list of prequalified/known companies and invites them to bid for that particular project.

The Saudi Government Contracting and Procurement Law states that all qualified companies and individuals will be given equal opportunities and will be treated equally. The law also affirms that all government bids must be announced in the official gazette Umm al-Qoura (Arabic), in two local newspapers, as well as in electronic media. There is no central tender board in Saudi Arabia except “Monafasat” which is E-Government Procurement project, which is considered one of the projects under the broader e-Government initiative in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia ( There are a number of governmental healthcare purchasing agencies in Saudi Arabia including the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of the National Guard. The Ministry of Finance operates as a central government procurement portal where all government tenders are listed.

The tender regulations require that preferences be given in procurements to Saudi individuals and establishments and other suppliers in which Saudi nationals hold at least 51 percent of the supplier’s capital. The tender regulations also give a preference to products of Saudi origin that satisfy the requirements of the procurement. In addition, Saudi Arabia gives priority in government purchasing to GCC products. These items receive up to a 10 percent price preference over non-GCC products in all government procurements in which foreign suppliers participate. In addition, several royal decrees strongly favoring GCC nationals in the award of government procurement contracts have been issued. Foreign suppliers that participate in government procurement are required to establish a training program for Saudi nationals.

Links for Saudi healthcare purchasing agencies:

Main Competitors

The Saudi market is completely dependent on imports for medical devices; U.S. suppliers enjoy some advantages, including competitive prices, language, and exchange rate. European suppliers are aggressively gaining market share due to their close proximity to the market, and perceived better customer support.

On the other hand, the pharmaceuticals sector is characterized by a growing domestic manufacturing base, mainly for generic and OTC drugs, as well as licensing arrangements with branded research-based foreign innovative drug manufacturing firms.

The Saudi domestic pharmaceutical industry lacks R&D capabilities, and it remains focused on producing basic formulations of off-patent preparations to feed into the generics market. The lack of R&D is compounded by an unpredictable IPR regulatory system and, recently a vague pricing structure, which is affecting the introduction of many new research-based products into the market.

Nonetheless, government policies are biased in favor of domestic producers, providing them with exemptions, including interest-free funding, subsidized utility charges, and no import duties on raw materials and intermediate products.

Industry sources project domestic production to contribute 40 percent of the market by 2020 in line with the National Transformation program objectives to localize the industry.

Current Demand

The demand for healthcare services has continuously outpaced supply and both the public and private sectors are struggling to accommodate growing demand. A growing population, compulsory health insurance coverage, and the prevalence of diseases are serving to boost the demand for services and hospital bed occupancy. Today, the overwhelming majority of Saudi Arabia’s 8.5 million health insurance holders are expatriates. The insurance reform could swell the pool with more than a million Saudi civil servants plus about 5 million dependents. Gross premiums reached $5 billion in 2015, 20 percent more than in 2014.

Additionally, the Executive Board of the Health Ministers’ Council for the GCC states (HO in Riyadh) release an annual tender valued at several billions of dollars for the following items:

  • Hospital sundries
  • Renal Dialysis supplies
  • Oral & dental care
  • Laboratory sundries
  • Orthopedic & spinal surgery
  • Rehabilitation
  • Cardiovascular
  • Linens & medical uniforms
  • Ophthalmology sundries
  • ENT sundries
  • Medicines
  • Vaccines
  • Chemicals
  • Insecticides
  • Radio-pharmaceuticals, and,
  • Renal dialysis solutions

Major players in the Saudi health care sector include (by expenditures):

  • Ministry of Health
  • Saudi Arabian National Guard
  • Ministry of Defense & Aviation
  • Ministry of Higher Education
  • Ministry of Interior
  • General Organization for Social Insurance
  • Royal Clinics
  • John Hopkins Aramco Healthcare
  • Private Sector
  • Executive Board of the Health of the Health Ministers Council for the GCC States

Registration Process

The Saudi Food & Drug Authority (SFDA) monitors and controls the import and distribution of medical devices, pharmaceuticals, and food products. For medical devices, the SFDA will usually accept, register, and authorize the marketing and sale of any device that complies with applicable provisions of the SFDA‘s Interim Regulations and relevant regulatory requirements applicable in one or more of the countries of the Global Harmonization Task Force (GHTF), which includes Australia, Canada, Japan, USA, and EU/EFTA. More information on the registration process can be found at


Commercial Disputes Settlement

There is not yet a transparent, comprehensive legal framework in place for resolving commercial disputes. Saudi commercial law is still developing, but in 1994 the Saudis took the positive step of joining the New York Convention of 1958 on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards. Saudi Arabia is also a member of the International Center for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (also known as the Washington Convention). However, dispute settlement in Saudi Arabia continues to be time-consuming and uncertain. Even after a decision is reached in a dispute, effective enforcement of the judgment can still take years. Generally, the Board of Grievances has jurisdiction over disputes with the government and over commercial disputes.

In October 2007, King Abdullah issued a royal decree to overhaul the Kingdom’s judicial system, including allocating 7 billion SAR (approximately $1.9 billion) to train judges and build new courts. The decree establishes two Supreme Courts, a general court and an administrative court, and specialized labor and commercial tribunals, although implementation has been slow.

Business Visas

All visitors to Saudi Arabia must have a Saudi sponsor in order to obtain a business visa to enter Saudi Arabia. Business visitors and foreign investors can apply through the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority (SAGIA) for a visitor visa at the Saudi Embassy or Consulates in the United States.

Saudi Arabia has also begun to implement a decree stating that sponsorship for certain business visas is no longer required. Based on new instructions, the issuance of a visitor’s visa should be affected within 24 hours from the visa application date.

While most business visas are valid for only one entry for a period of up to three months, the Saudi Embassy in Washington has begun issuing a 5-year multiple entry visa for selected business people, taking into consideration the principle of reciprocity. Finally, the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs is currently examining the issuance of a visitor’s visa at ports of entry for selected nationalities.


The Ministry of Health (MOH) is the major government agency entrusted with the provision of preventivecurative and rehabilitative health care for the Kingdom’s population. The Ministry provides primary health care (PHC) services through a network of health care centers throughout the kingdom. It also adopts the referral system which provides curative care for all members of society from the level of general practitioners at health centers to advanced technology specialist curative services through a broad base of general and specialist hospitals. The MOH also undertakes the overall supervision and follow-up of health care related activities carried out by the private sector. Therefore, the MOH can be viewed as a national health service (NHS) for the entire population.

The private sector provides health services through its health facilities including hospitals, dispensaries, laboratories, pharmacies and physiotherapy centers throughout the kingdom. Saudis and public sector expats are eligible for a comprehensive package of benefits including, public health, preventive, diagnostic, and curative services and pharmaceuticals with few exclusions and no cost sharing. Most services including state of the art cardio-vascular procedures, organ transplants, and cancer treatments (including bone marrow transplants) are covered. Sponsors/employers are responsible for paying for an extensive package of services for private sector expatriates. In 2005, health insurance was made compulsory for all non-Saudi nationals working in the country under the Cooperative Health Insurance Act. In 2008, this act was extended to include Saudi nationals working for the private sector. Enforcements of this compulsory coverage include fines for non-compliant companies and a refusal to renew working permits without insurance. By mid-2017, mandatory health insurance for all Saudi and non-Saudi employees and their families in the private sector became effective as the Government is moving towards privatizing the healthcare care services. The MOH plans to privatize all its services through the National Transformation Program 2020 which will increase the private sector contribution to the health sector from 25 to 35 percent and change government hospitals to semi-public companies. As a result of this privatization program, around 20 million Saudi citizens will need insurance coverage by 2020.


Delayed Payments

Companies who have significant experience with government contracts here report they have carried SAG receivables for years. The problem has become more visible following the sustained decline in oil prices over the last three years and ongoing government austerity measures. The SAG continued to delay payments to major contractors throughout 2016, though made progress by setting aside $28 billion and making some payments to clear arrears starting in October 2016. U.S. companies should contact the U.S. Commercial Service at the Embassy in Riyadh or Consulates in Dhahran or Jeddah if payment problems persist.

Intellectual Property Protection

Saudi Arabia recently undertook a comprehensive revision of its laws covering intellectual property rights to bring them in line with the WTO agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs). The Saudi legal system protects and facilitates acquisition and disposition of all property rights, including intellectual property. The Saudi Government recently updated the Trademark Law (2002), the Copyright Law (2003), and the Patent Law (2004), with the dual goals of TRIPs- compliance and effective deterrence against violators. In 2008 the Violations Review Committee created a website and has populated it with information on current cases. The government also endorsed the country’s joining the “Paris Convention for Protection of Industrial Property” and the “Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works.” Although intellectual property protection has steadily increased in the Kingdom, intellectual piracy remains a problem.

The current Law on Patents, Layout Designs of Integrated Circuits, Plant Varieties and Industrial Designs has been in effect since September 2004. Largely due to a lack of adequate resources and technical expertise, when this law went into effect the Patent Office had issued just over 40 patents and had a large backlog (more than 9,000 applications dating back to issuance of Saudi Arabia’s first patent law in 1989). The office has since streamlined its procedures, hired more staff, and reduced this backlog. Protection is available for product and product-by-process. The term of protection was increased from 15 years to 20 years under the new law, but patent holders can no longer apply for a routinely granted five-year extension.

Trademarks are protected under the Trademark Law. The Rules for Protection of Trade Secrets came into effect in 2005. Saudi Arabia has one of the best trademarks laws in the region, but enforcement still lags and procedures are inconsistent.

The Saudi Government has revised its Copyright Law, is devoting increased resources to marketplace enforcement, and is seeking to impose stricter penalties on copyright violators.

The Saudi Government has stepped up efforts to force pirated printed material, recorded music, videos, and software off the shelves of stores. These efforts included stepping up raids on shops selling pirated goods in 2008. However, many pirated materials are still available in the marketplace. An Islamic ruling, or fatwa, stating that software piracy is “forbidden” backs enforcement efforts. Following successful “out-of- cycle reviews” in 2009, Saudi Arabia was removed from the Special 301 Watch List in February 2010.

Saudi Arabia has not signed and ratified the WIPO internet treaties.


Manufacturers of consumer products and automobile spare parts are particularly concerned about the widespread availability of counterfeit products. Anti-counterfeiting laws exist, and the U.S. Government has urged the Saudi authorities to step up enforcement actions against perpetrators. In some popular consumer goods, manufacturers estimate that as much as 50% of the entire Saudi market is counterfeit.

In order to restrict the entry of counterfeit products, the Saudi Customs Authority recently implemented a new directive requiring all imported goods to clearly display the “Country of Origin” or “Made in ….” on the items in an irremovable manner either by engraving, knitting, printing, or pressing based on the nature of the imported items. This requirement is strictly enforced. However, locally produced or smuggled counterfeit products abound in the market due to lack of effective enforcement

Arab League Boycott

The Gulf Cooperation Council (Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates) announced in the fall of 1994 that its members would no longer enforce the secondary and tertiary aspects of the Arab League Boycott. The primary boycott against Israeli companies and products still applies. Advice on boycott and anti- boycott related matters are available from the U.S. Embassy or from the Office of Anti- Boycott Compliance in Washington, D.C. at (202) 482-2381.

Government Procurement

Procurement is subject to the 2006 Government Tenders and Procurement Law and its 2007 implementing regulations. There is no central procurement office. Each ministry or autonomous agency contracts directly with suppliers within the framework of the regulations. However, the Ministry of Finance provides oversight and is required by law to review all contracts valued at 5 million riyals or more and contracts with execution periods of longer than one year.

Under the regulations, all purchases must be made through public tender unless specifically exempted. Tenders are announced in the official gazette, two local newspapers, various electronic media, and foreign media as necessary. Bids may be submitted in sealed envelopes or electronically by the specified date, and they must be accompanied by a bid bond of between 1 percent and 2 percent based on the terms of the tender. Bids are valid for 90 days. The regulations require equal treatment of national and foreign goods.

Contracts generally are awarded to the lowest bidder that meets the conditions set forth in the tender; however, if the lowest bid is 35 percent lower than the purchasing agency's estimates or prevailing market prices the bid must be excluded unless the bidder satisfies the agency that it can perform the obligations of the contract. Bids also may be excluded if the purchasing agency believes that the bidder's contractual obligations would exceed its ability to execute the contract. Once a contract is awarded, the winning bidder must supply a performance guarantee equivalent to 5 percent of the contract value. Once a contract is awarded, the purchasing authority may increase by up to 10 percent or decrease by up to 20 percent the total value of the supplier's obligation, subject to strict criteria.

Bid guarantees and performance guarantees may be in the form of a guarantee from a local bank or a guarantee from a foreign bank submitted through a local bank. Cash guarantees are acceptable only in certain urgent cases. A guarantee is not required for direct purchase contracts unless the purchasing agency deems it necessary. Although Arabic is the official language, English is spoken and understood widely. Firms resident or working in Saudi Arabia must conduct all official business with the government in Arabic. The tender regulations state that bids may be in any language, but in practice, tender announcements generally specify the language of the bid.


Saudi Arabia gives preference to national carriers for up to 40% of government-related cargos. Two local companies take full advantage of this situation.

Standards and labeling

As part of the GCC Customs Union, the six Member States are working toward unifying their standards and conformity assessment systems. However, each Member State continues to apply its own standard or a GCC standard. A new ICCP mandates that a Certificate of Conformity must accompany all consumer goods exported to Saudi Arabia. Labeling and marking requirements are compulsory for any products exported to Saudi Arabia. The Saudi Arabian Standards Organization (SASO) is responsible for establishing labeling and other guidelines. The Ministry of Commerce and Investment implements SASO guidelines through its inspection and test laboratories at Saudi ports of entry.

Trade Events

Name of event: Saudi American Healthcare Forum 2017, April 25 – 26, 2018

Location: The Ritz Carlton Hotel & Conference Center, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

Description: The conference is a three day high-powered event focusing on various healthcare themes and issues and drawing on high level officials and executives from both the public and privates sectors in the U.S. and Saudi Arabia.

Name of event: Saudi Health Exhibition & Conference 2018, April 22 – 24, 2018

Location: Riyadh International Exhibition Center, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

Description: The show is a three day exhibition and conference, showcasing the latest products, technology and services that the sector has to offer. This is the only event with the full support of the Ministry of Health and will cover the full spectrum of healthcare. The show is still young and this would be the second year running.


1) What is SAGIA and how does it support U.S. healthcare companies?

SAGIA is the government agency that is responsible for providing an attractive and lucrative investment environment for investors in order to promote investment in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, thereby expanding the economic landscape. SAGIA is the first line of contact for any U.S. healthcare company that is seeking to invest in the Kingdom because SAGIA can provide information for U.S. companies on the Kingdom’s investment climate and investor requirements.

2) Do U.S. manufacturers require a partner to operate in Saudi Arabia?

U.S. manufacturers may operate with or without a partner. To be eligible for 100% foreign ownership, particular requirements must be met, which can be sought from SAGIA. Any company with a foreign investment license will enjoy all of the privileges of a local Saudi company.

3) What are Saudi Arabia’s healthcare priorities over the next 3-5 years?

A Healthcare Investment Plan has been developed that identifies more than 40 opportunities for health care investment in different areas, among which include service provision, education and training, medical device manufacturing, pharmaceuticals manufacturing, support services, and digital and Information management. The recent National Transformation program also highlighted a number of initiatives and programs for the healthcare sector.

4) Is there a government-to-government collaboration in the area of healthcare?

U.S.-Saudi bilateral healthcare cooperation is robust. The Saudi Ministry of Health and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services renewed an umbrella memorandum of understanding in September 2015. That broad agreement is currently supporting the two healthcare systems through additional data sharing, research collaboration, disease surveillance and infection control, subject matter experts exchange and training, and joint leadership to enhance global capacity to fight all types of biological threats under our common Global Health Security Agenda.

Local Associations

  • Saudi Association for Health Informatics (SAHI)
  • Saudi Association for Clinical Chemistry
  • Saudi Dental Society
  • Saudi Diabetes & Endocrine Association
  • Saudi Heart Association
  • Saudi Association for Venous Thrombo-Embolism
  • Saudi Pediatric Pulmonology Association
  • Saudi Lung Cancer Association
  • Saudi Oncology Society
  • Saudi Urology Association
  • Saudi Association for Pulmonary Hypertension
  • The Saudi Healthcare Architects

Government Links

World Health Organization (WHO):

Saudi Ministry of Health:

Executive Board of the Saudi Health Ministers Council:

Saudi Food & Drug Authority:

Saudi Commission for Health Specialties:

Best Prospects

  • Medical Equipment

Spending in the Saudi healthcare sector was $22.4 billion in 2016. Indeed, healthcare and education remain fundamental to the government’s 2017 budget, receiving a combined 36 percent budget allocation. The budget envisions the completion of 38 new hospitals, two medical cities and refurbishing of various healthcare facilities. The Saudi private healthcare sector is experiencing dramatic growth, but private spending still only accounts for 21 percent of total healthcare expenditures.

The healthcare sector contributed $20.8 billion to the Kingdom’s GDP in 2015. The sector is projected to grow by 13.7 percent by 2025. This growth is fueled by urban expansion, especially in Makkah, Riyadh and the Eastern province. Saudi Arabia, like other countries in the Arabian Gulf, continues to exhibit negative lifestyle trends which are affecting morbidity statistics. Non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer have become the main causes of death among Saudis; their incidence is rising due to a sedentary lifestyle, obesity, high tobacco use, and poor dietary choices. Type-2 diabetes has a 14.4 percent prevalence rate and 2.5 million people are expected to be diabetic by 2030. The latest World Health Organization (WHO) figures indicate that 33.7 percent of Saudi adults are obese and 68.2 percent are overweight.

The market for healthcare and medical equipment in Saudi Arabia is driven by government initiatives and lifestyle trends. While the government currently accounts for almost 80 percent of healthcare expenditures, privatization is creating opportunities for medical service delivery in the areas of dialysis, radiology, oncology, cardiovascular care and other outpatient services. The Saudi Ministry of Health plans to privatize 295 hospitals and 2,259 health centers by 2030. Among the first assets to be offered will be one of Saudi Arabia's top hospitals, King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Centre in Riyadh. As a consequence of risky driving habits and weak enforcement, the Kingdom has one of the world’s highest rates of traffic accidents, which generates demand for emergency room equipment and specializations like reconstructive surgery.

The Saudi market for medical devices is estimated at just under $2 billion and is growing annually at roughly 10 percent. Greater awareness of health issues and a growing consumption of healthcare services sustain a strong market for medical equipment. Saudi Arabia is encouraging a domestic manufacturing base for these devices and instruments but currently manufactures low value commodities such as bandages, gloves, syringes and furniture. Imports represent approximately 90 percent of the market, with American products accounting for 21 percent of total imports.

Sub-Sector Best Prospects

Best Prospects include:

  • Education and training services for physicians, nurses and technical staff;
  • Information technology and big data management services related to the digitization of patient records and billing information;
  • Hospital management and joint ventures with Saudi partners;
  • Investment in pharmaceutical manufacturing facilities for vaccines, sterile injectables, plasma, generics and other pharmaceuticals;
  • Provision of support services and investments to establish local capabilities in bioequivalence centers, cold chain logistics, outpatient imaging and contract research organization (CROs);
  • Provision of health insurance; and
  • Home healthcare and rehabilitation.

In addition, medical equipment related to traffic accidents such as emergency room equipment, rehabilitation equipment, diagnostic equipment, electro-medical equipment, orthopedic and dental appliances and prosthesis are in demand. Moreover, the GCC releases an annual tender for billions of dollars for the following products and services: renal dialysis supplies; oral and dental care; laboratory supplies; orthopedic and spinal surgery supplies; rehabilitation equipment; cardiovascular devices; linens and medical uniforms; ophthalmology supplies; ENT supplies; medicines; vaccines; chemicals; insecticides; and radio-pharmaceuticals.


New projects in the 2015 Ministry of Health budget included the construction of three hospitals, three blood bank centers, 11 primary health care centers, and 10 comprehensive care clinics. Hospital beds currently number around 64,000 for all hospitals in Saudi Arabia and are expected to grow to 119,000 beds by 2020. In addition, a private group of investors is developing a 250,000 square meter medical village in Riyadh, consisting of eight 130 bed hospitals and 60 outpatient clinics.

The NTP also highlights the following initiatives it intends to carry out in this sector over the next five years:

  • Expand privatization of government services;
  • Incorporate health IT and digital records and increase percentage of patients with a digital health record from 0 to 70 percent by 2020;
  • Double the number of qualified Saudi nurses by 2020;
  • Increase the number of licensed medical facilities from 40 to 100

by 2020; doubling the percentage of local pharmaceutical

manufacturing from 20 percent to 40 percent; and

  • Invest in academic programs related to nursing, medicine,

surgery, dentistry, oncology, organ transplant, cardiovascular

disease, neuroscience and genetic disorders.

Web Resources

Saudi government Web links:

Ministry of Health:

Saudi Food and Drug Administration:

  • Pharmaceuticals

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia accounts for 59.4 percent of the purchases of pharmaceuticals products in the Gulf region. Saudi Arabia’s expenditures on pharmaceuticals were valued at around $6.9 billion in 2016 with industry estimates suggesting a 10 percent annual growth rate. Per capita spending on pharmaceutical was approximately $268 in 2016 and is expected to reach nearly $400 by 2020.

With Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 and the NTP focusing on job creation and economic diversification, the SAG is very interested in developing the life sciences industry and pharmaceuticals in particular, as a driver of economic growth. Major factors affecting the pharmaceutical market are the Kingdom’s growing population, the increase in per capita spending on health care services, and the propensity to purchase more expensive patented products. Already in 2015, European, U.S., and Indian pharmaceutical companies have launched production facilities -– especially, at the King Abdullah Economic Industrial Valley -- producing a full range of products including antibiotics, diabetic treatments, cardiovascular drugs, and anticoagulants.

Sub-Sector Best Prospects

Pharmaceuticals including diabetic care, cardiovascular drugs, antibiotics, and generics offer the best prospects.


With the change in the Saudi Arabia trade paradigm that is focusing more on job creation and economic diversification, the export and shipping of pharmaceutical products into the Saudi market no longer translates into commercial success. Local production, technology transfer, conducting clinical trials locally, and the training/education of the Saudi labor force are becoming the new normal in the life sciences/pharmaceutical products industry. As the Ministry of Health is still the major financier and provider of healthcare services in the Kingdom, it will continue to dictate requirements for the pharmaceutical industry to operate.

Web Resources

Ministry of Health:

Saudi Arabia Food and Drug Administration:

U.S. Commercial Service Contact Information

Name: Maher Siblini (Sector‘s Lead)

Position: Senior Commercial Specialist


Phone: +966.11.488.3800 x 4302

Name: Anwar Shaqhan

Position: Commercial Specialist


Phone: +966.12.667.0080 x 4259

Name: Mohammed Shujauddin

Position: Commercial Specialist


Phone: +966.13.330.3200 x 3137

Market Size

Healthcare spending (including investment)

US$ 34.4 billion

... as percent of GDP

5.3 % of GDP

... of which spent on pharmaceuticals/consumables

$7.4 billion

Hospitals, Procedures, Healthcare Professionals UN


Number of hospitals






Number of hospital beds


... available beds per capita


...of which in general hospitals


Number of surgical procedures










Life expectancy men/women


Infant mortality/000


Percent of population older than 65


Annual deaths

3.7 deaths/1,000 population

Ischemic heart disease




Diabetes mellitus


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