Healthcare Resource Guide: Saudi Arabia

Last Updated: October 2019

Saudi Arabia


Market Entry

Current Market Trends

Main Competitors

Registration Process


Government Procurement

Trade Events

Best Prospects

Statistics Snapshot

CS Contacts

Capital: Riyadh

Population: 33.6 million

GDP: $683.83 Billion

Currency: Saudi Riyals

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


The Saudi health care sector is the largest in the Near East. Saudi Arabia’s health and social affairs budget for 2019 outlines an 8% increase to $46 billion as compared to $42.4 billion in 2018. This equates to about 15% of total government spending, budgeted at $260 million. Healthcare is the third largest beneficiary behind education and military.

With the decrease in oil revenues, the Saudi government has scaled back levels of spending across the board. However, the budget for healthcare and social development has grown by 8% for 2019. Public spending still dominates at 66.1 %, 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 privatization initiatives will be a central part of the Saudi’s economic diversification efforts, intended to reduce its dependence on the public sector. The healthcare sector contributed 4.7% to the Saudi’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2018. The sector is projected to grow 13.7% by 2025. Recently, the government decided to privatize all its public hospitals and introduce a comprehensive insurance system for Saudi citizens as well as Public-Private Partnership (PPP) programs, as included in the government’s NTP 2020 objectives:

  • To expand the role of the private sector from 25% to 35% by 2020
  • To increase the number of licensed medical facilities from 40 to 100
  • To increase the number of internationally accredited hospitals
  • To double the number of primary care centers visits per capita from two to four
  • To decrease the percentage of smoking and obesity by establishing a strategy focused on preventive medicine and advocate for a healthy lifestyle and wellness
  • To focus on digital health

Imports of medical devices accounted for more than 98% of the market at $1.8 billion, and American companies top the list of suppliers, with a 21% 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 local manufacturing through foreign investments in the healthcare sector, especially for pharmaceuticals and medical devices.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia accounts for 59.4% of the purchases of pharmaceutical products in the Gulf and will remain a key market for many leading multinational pharmaceutical companies in the Near 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.

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

Vison 2030 & National Transformation Program (NTP)

The Government of Saudi Arabia seeks to expand the private sector’s role in providing healthcare services under Vision 2030 and the National Transformation Program. Some goals include plans to expand the privatization of government services, incorporate health IT and digital records, double the number of qualified Saudi nurses by 2020, and increase the number of licensed medical facilities from 40 to 100 by 2020.

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Healthcare Policy Issues

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia seeks to expand the private sector’s role in providing healthcare services under its ambitious Vision 2030 and its National Transformation Program. Saudi Arabia’s deteriorating environment for intellectual property protections in pharmaceuticals, however, dampens the positive signals sent to entrepreneurs, investors, and innovators in the private sector. In recent years, the Saudi Arabia Food and Drug Authority (SFDA), which the Minister of Health oversees, has authorized domestic companies to produce generic versions of pharmaceutical products that are under patent protection either in Saudi Arabia or the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), or that are still covered by Saudi Arabia’s system for protecting against the unfair commercial use, as well as the unauthorized disclosure, of undisclosed test or other data generated to obtain marketing approval. Due in part to unresolved and worsening intellectual property infringement issues impacting innovative pharmaceutical companies, Saudi Arabia was downgraded to Priority Watch List from Watch List of USTR’s Special 301 Report, which was released in April 2019.

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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 United States (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.

In December 2018, the Saudi Council of Ministers made amendments to the Private Health Institutes law. Foreign investors may now fully-own, operate, and manage all types of healthcare institutions, except for specialist clinics. Moreover, officials at the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority (SAGIA) and the Saudi Ministry of Health are currently working together to implement a unified regulatory licensing system governing healthcare Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in the Saudi market, to attract more international healthcare providers and improve the performance of all healthcare providers in Saudi Arabia. These changes are expected to significantly increase FDI and accelerate the growth of the Kingdom's healthcare market.

Imported medical devices are charged a 5% 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. Additionally, and as of January 1, 2018, a 5% value added tax (VAT) was introduced on all goods and services that are bought or sold by businesses, with a few exceptions. The General Authority of Zakat & Tax has exempted medicine and medical devices from the VAT for “only those items that are specified/procured by the Ministry of Health and the Saudi Food and Drug Authority.”

Shipping: 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 Gulf Cooperation Council (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.

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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. Non-communicable diseases, such as diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and cancer have become the main causes of death, estimated to account for more than 78% 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.

Type 2 diabetes has a 14.4% 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% of Saudi adults are obese and 68.2% are overweight.

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

In turn, those figures have been the key drivers for demand 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 healthcare services in Saudi Arabia and accounts for most healthcare expenditures. It represents approximately 79% of bed capacity though 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 bed capacity for institutions run by the Ministry of Health will almost reach 73,768 beds by 2020 and 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 stands at 68,000 for all hospitals in Saudi Arabia and the number is expected to grow to 119,000 beds by 2020. Additionally, a private group of investors is developing Riyadh’s Medical Village over a 250,000 square meter area, consisting of eight 130-bed hospitals, 60 outpatient clinics, and other amenities and services. Currently, the healthcare budget stipulates the construction of 36 new hospitals (8,950 beds) and two medical cities (2,350 beds) that are expected to be completed by the end of 2019. The Ministry is expected to build an additional 18 hospitals with a bed capacity of 9,904 over the next two years.

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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 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 Over the Counter (OTC) drugs, as well as licensing arrangements with branded research-based foreign innovative drug manufacturing firms. However, the Saudi domestic pharmaceutical industry lacks R&D capabilities, and it remains focused on producing basic formulations of off-patent drugs to feed 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% of the market by 2020 in line with the National Transformation Program objectives to localize the industry.

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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, U.S., and EU/EFTA. More information on the registration process can be found at

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The Ministry of Health (MOH) is the major government agency entrusted with the provision of preventive, curative and rehabilitative healthcare for the Kingdom’s population. The Ministry provides primary healthcare (PHC) services through a network of healthcare centers throughout the Kingdom. It also utilizes a 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 healthcare 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 cardiovascular 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. Enforcement mechanisms for this compulsory coverage regime 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 healthcare 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 25-35% 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.

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Commercial Disputes Settlement: In the past, dispute settlement in Saudi Arabia has proven to be time-consuming and uncertain. 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, recently the Saudi Government demonstrated several improvements to the quality of commercial legal proceedings and established access to alternative dispute resolution mechanisms. According to the Department of State’s 2017 Investment Climate Statement, following the update of certain provisions in Saudi Arabia’s domestic arbitration law in 2012, it led to the establishment of the Saudi Center for Commercial Arbitration (SCCA) in 2016. Developed in accordance with international arbitration rules and standards, including those set by the American Arbitration Association’s International Centre for Dispute Resolution and the International Chamber of Commerce’s International Court of Arbitration, the SCCA offers comprehensive arbitration services to firms both domestic and international. Awards rendered by the SCCA can be enforced in local courts, though judges remain empowered to reject enforcement of provisions they deem non-compliant with sharia law.

Business Visas: Saudi Arabia has 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.

Most business visas are valid for multiple entries valid for five years. However, visa fees are considered costly. Finally, Saudi Arabia has introduced new tourist visas starting on September 27, 2019. U.S. citizens will be able to apply for a tourist visa through an easy to use E-visa platform, or through visa on arrival upon arriving to the Kingdom. For more information see .

Intellectual Property Protection: In a recent move to demonstrate Saudi Arabia’s commitment to intellectual property (IP) protection, the Saudi Government announced the establishment of the Saudi Authority for Intellectual Property (SAIP) and launched the strategy of SAIP under the umbrella of Ministry of Commerce and Investment (MCI) in April 2018. Prior to that, 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, and the Saudi Customs Authority has taken significant enforcement efforts in the past several years.

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 also stepped up efforts to force pirated printed material, recorded music, videos, and software off the shelves of stores. These efforts have included stepping up raids since 2008 on shops selling pirated goods. However, due to concerns regarding recent deteriorations in IP protection for pharmaceutical products, in addition to outstanding concerns regarding IP enforcement and the continued use of unlicensed software by the government, Saudi Arabia was placed on the Special 301 Watch List in April 2019 Saudi Arabia has not signed and ratified the WIPO internet treaties.

Counterfeiting: 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. 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.

The Saudi government has shown improvements in combatting the proliferation of counterfeit products in recent years, with increased resources devoted to marketplace enforcement and stricter penalties for copyright and trademark violators. However, enforcement often remains uneven: stakeholders cited a decrease in overall counterfeit goods seizures over the course of 2017 amid changes in Saudi leadership, while copyright enforcement remains hampered by an insufficient number of inspectors.

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 unremovable 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 the lack of effective enforcement.

Delayed Payments: Companies which have significant experience with government contracts in Saudi Arabia report they have carried government 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 government has 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. On January 20, 2018, the Ministry of Finance launched “Eitimad,” a unified digital services platform that allows government entities and private sector contractors to make full use of the Ministry’s advanced procurement e-services, enhancing the speed of the process, ensuring accuracy of data and increasing the ease of doing business. However, should payment problems or delays persist, United States companies should contact the United States Commercial Service at the Embassy in Riyadh or Consulates in Dhahran or Jeddah.

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Procurement & Tenders

In March 2019, the Saudi Government approved a new Competition and Procurement Law replacing the current Competition Law, which aims to protect and encourage fair competition and combat and prevent monopolistic practices that affect legitimate competition or the interest of the consumer, leading to an improved market environment and economic development. However, its implementing regulations have not been yet issued.

Selling to the Government

In Saudi Arabia, every government agency has its own full contracting authority. Foreign companies interested in bidding on a government project must make themselves known to the 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 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) and in two local newspapers, as well as in electronic media. There is no central tender board in Saudi Arabia except “Monafasat,” which is an E-Government Procurement project under the broader e-Government initiative in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia ( There are several governmental healthcare purchasing agencies in Saudi Arabia including the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Defense and Aviation, The National Guard. The Ministry of Finance operates as a central government procurement portal where all government tenders are listed.

Links for Saudi healthcare purchasing agencies:

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Trade Events

Saudi Healthcare Exhibition, November 4-6, 2019

Location: Riyadh International Convention & Exhibition Center, RiyadhSaudi Arabia

Description: Saudi Healthcare Exhibition provides a platform for medical professionals, government officials, and providers of healthcare products and services to network and engage in business. The event also provides the attendees with an opportunity to benefit from the upsurge in the healthcare industry and reap the rewards of unparalleled exposure to key decision makers, government authorities, and high net worth investors from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

The 2nd Saudi International Pharma Expo, December 10-12, 2019

Location: Riyadh International Convention & Exhibition Center, RiyadhSaudi Arabia

Description: The 2nd Saudi International Pharma Expo is the only platform that brings together local and international companies specialized in the manufacture and marketing of medicines in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The exhibition, through the previous ones, have succeeded to reach most of those who work and have interest in the pharmaceutical sector. It also attracted the most important international companies that offered the latest pharmaceutical formulas and technology supporting the pharmaceutical industry.

Saudi International Dental Conference, January 23-25, 2020

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

Description: This conference gathers many dental specialties like digital dentistry, implant dentistry, orthodontics, cleft lip and palate, endodontics, restorative and esthetic dentistry, pediatric dentistry, periodontics, prosthodontics, and oral surgery that all are centered in providing an excellent dental care to our patients.  In addition, we have interesting poster presentations and several research awards. SIDC 2020 provides a wide range of opportunity for all dental professionals, dental assistants, dental hygienists, and technicians to gain knowledge about new advances in different dental specialties.

Saudi American Healthcare Forum, March 15-16, 2020

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

Description: Saudi American Healthcare Forum challenges business leaders, educators, and industry professionals from the Arab world and the United States to bolster and promote United States and Arab initiatives and solutions that are focused on strengthening bilateral relations based on healthcare diplomacy. Additionally, a separate and equally important objective of this Forum is to provide the knowledge of how best to navigate the kingdom's ample commercial opportunities to promote a better and healthier lifestyle through productive public-private partnerships.

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1. What is SAGIA and how does it support United States healthcare companies?

The Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority (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 United States healthcare company that is seeking to invest in the Kingdom because SAGIA can provide information for United States companies on the Kingdom’s investment climate and investor requirements.

2. Do United States manufacturers require a partner to operate in Saudi Arabia?

United States manufacturers may operate with or without a partner. To be eligible for 100% foreign ownership, requirements must be met, which can be sought from SAGIA. Any company with a foreign investment license will enjoy all 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 healthcare investment in different areas, 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 few initiatives and programs for the healthcare sector.

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

US-Saudi bilateral healthcare cooperation is robust. The Saudi Ministry of Health and the United States 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.

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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 Orthopedic Association
  • Saudi Association for Pulmonary Hypertension
  • The Saudi Healthcare Architects

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Government Links

World Health Organization (WHO):

Saudi Ministry of Health:

Executive Board of the Saudi Health Ministers Council:

Gulf Health Council:

Saudi Food & Drug Authority:

Saudi Commission for Health Specialties:

Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority:

Invest Saudi:

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Best Prospects

Medical Devices Sector

The Saudi market for medical equipment is estimated at just under $2 billion and is growing annually at roughly 10%. Greater awareness of health issues and a growing consumption of healthcare services sustain a strong market for medical equipment. Saudi Arabia is encouraging and offering several incentives for domestic manufacturing for these devices and instruments but currently manufactures low-value commodities such as bandages, gloves, syringes and furniture. Imports represent approximately 98% of the market, with American products accounting for 21% of total imports.


  • Emergency room equipment
  • Rehabilitation equipment
  • Diagnostic equipment
  • Electro-medical equipment
  • Orthopedic, dental appliances, and prosthesis
  • Glucometers
  • Implants

Pharmaceuticals Sector

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia accounts for 59.4% the purchases of pharmaceuticals products in the Gulf region. The market was estimated at $5.75 billion in 2017 and poised to grow at a CAGR of 6.7%, expected to reach $8.46 billion by 2023, according to a report published by Precision Business Insights.

Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 and the NTP’s priorities for job creation and economic diversification provided a strong incentive for both the private and public sector to develop the life sciences industry in general, and pharmaceuticals. Currently, only 30% of pharmaceutical products are manufactured locally. Major factors affecting the pharmaceutical market are the Kingdom’s growing population, the increase in per capita spending on healthcare services, and the propensity to prefer research-based products as opposed to purchasing more expensive patented products. However, in recent years, the Saudi government’s efforts to curb pharmaceuticals expenditures and promote local manufacturing have resulted in a fast and growing generics market. European, US, and Indian companies already have established production facilities – especially at the King Abdullah Economic Industrial Valley – producing a full range of products including antibiotics, diabetic treatments, cardiovascular drugs, and anticoagulants.

Opportunities abound for additional manufacturers to establish a presence in the Kingdom, especially in vaccines, APIs, injectables, and biologics.

Sub-Sector Best Prospects

Pharmaceuticals for diabetic care, cardiovascular, antibiotics, and cancer treatment 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. The 2030 Vision and NTP have placed the Industrial Clusters (IC) as the leading government entity to develop five industrial sectors including the pharmaceutical and biotech industry.

Accordingly, the IC has identified the following opportunities in the pharmaceuticals industry:

  • Biologics and Biosimilars
  • Vaccine Formulation Fill and Finish (FFF)
  • Sterile Injectables (SI)
  • Solid Oral Dosage
  • Active Pharmaceuticals Ingredients (API)
  • Plasma Production
  • Bioequivalence Testing Center

Web Resources

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Statistics Snapshot

Market Size

Healthcare spending (including investment)

US$ 40.7 billion

... as % of GDP

5.3 % of GDP

... of which spent on pharmaceuticals/consumables

$7.8 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


% of population older than 65


Annual deaths

3.7 deaths/1,000 population

Ischemic heart disease




Diabetes mellitus


Source: BMI Research

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U.S. Commercial Service Contact Information

Name: Anwar Shaqhan

Position: Senior Commercial Specialist


Phone: 012-220-5000 x 3162

Name: Tareq Ghazal

Position: Commercial Specialist


Phone: +966.13.330.3200 x 3065

Name: Khalid Khan

Position: Commercial Specialist


Phone: +966.11.4883800 x 4302

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  If the page does not appear in 5 seconds, please click this: outside web site is managed by the International Trade Administration and external links are covered by its website disclaimer statement.