Last Updated: October 2019
Country: United Arab Emirates
Capital: Abu Dhabi
Population: 9,400,145 (2018)
GDP: USD $408.2 billion
Currency: Arab Emirate Dirham (AED)
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has been the top United States (U.S.) export market in the Middle East and North Africa region for the last 10 years and a critical regional hub for 1,500 American companies doing business throughout the Middle East, Africa, and South Asia. The UAE has a population of approximately 9.4 million, out of which about 85% are expatriates. The UAE's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is expected to expand 3.5% in 2019 compared to 2.8% in 2018, thanks to an Abu Dhabi-led $13.6 billion stimulus package announced in June 2018 and a host of measures taken to improve the ease of doing business across the country.
The creation of a world-class healthcare infrastructure is a top priority for the government of the UAE and, as a result, the sector has advanced and expanded significantly during the past few years. The World Health Organization determined that a third of adults in the UAE are obese, and one out of five people live with diabetes. As the incidences of lifestyle diseases increase, these populations, supported by relatively high levels of income, will demand greater quality of healthcare. The government’s focus is on developing a healthcare infrastructure to address this demand.
Healthcare in the UAE is regulated at both the federal and emirate levels. Federal-level legislation dates to the 1970s and 1980s, and there are pending legislative reform initiatives to facilitate the development of the healthcare industry. The UAE government is liberalizing policies to attract foreign investments to improve the healthcare standard and boost the healthcare industry.
The UAE’s health expenditure reached a value of $13.7 billion (AED 50.3 billion) in 2018. This includes healthcare expenditures from the seven emirates in addition to their contribution to the federal budget. There is an expectation for this figure to reach $14.4 billion (AED 53 billion) in 2019, a 5.4% increase. Spending is forecast to rise to $18.3 billion (AED 67.2 billion) by 2023, which translates to a local currency and US dollar compound annual growth rate of 6%. A 10-year forecast to 2028 predicts that health expenditure will rise to $26 billion (AED 95.5 billion). Overall healthcare spending is expected to account for 3.6% of the country's GDP by 2028, gradually increasing from 3.4% in 2018, according to Business Monitor International (BMI).
In June 2015, the UAE government launched a new health insurance program in Dubai to support nationals not covered under any other government-funded health insurance scheme. This scheme benefited around 130,000 people by offering healthcare at 23 private hospitals and more than 500 medical clinics in and around Dubai. The Dubai Health Authority (DHA) announced in June 2016 that all Dubai residents should be covered by health insurance; this will be tied to the renewal and issuance of their UAE residence visas.
The UAE government wants to boost the number of medical tourists coming to the UAE in order to establish Dubai as a center of healthcare excellence in the region. The country has a robust transportation and logistics infrastructure and is geographically well-positioned to be the center of a transportation network that links the economies of India and China to Europe and the U.S. These factors also make the country an attractive location for establishing a regional distribution center for medical devices.
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Current Market Trends
A law allowing 100% foreign ownership of companies in the UAE for certain sectors is now in effect. The law is designed to make the country more attractive for investors, while limiting the impact on local businesses. Previously, foreign companies seeking to establish an entity onshore in the UAE needed to team up with a UAE national, who was required to own 51% of the shares of the company. The plan aims to boost the UAE’s attractiveness for investment, create jobs, and diversify the economy.
There are also free-zones within the UAE which offer a wide variety of benefits to businesses and a degree of flexibility including:
The UAE market is wholly dependent on imports for medical devices; while U.S. suppliers enjoy some advantages, including competitive prices, language, and exchange rate, European suppliers are aggressively gaining market share with their proximity to the market and perceived better customer support.
The UAE suffers from a shortage of trained medical personnel. There are numerous hospital construction and renovation programs underway as a result of public and private investment. The Dubai Health Authority (DHA) has reported that the UAE needs an additional 8,000 hospital beds by 2025, therefore it is encouraging further private sector investment. Estimates suggest there is now a shortage of almost 2,000 hospital beds across the country, despite an increase of around 30% in the number of beds in recent years. Sub-sectors of medical devices such as hospital beds are scarce in the UAE. The UAE has the lowest hospital bed density (the number of hospital beds per 1,000 residents) in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). The UAE also suffers from a shortage of medical personnel and medical training opportunities. The number of hospital beds was estimated at 12,903 at the end of 2017, equal to 1.4 per thousand population. There are numerous hospitals under construction and renovation programs underway as a result of public and private investment. A growing medical tourism sector is generating demand for modern facilities with state-of the-art medical equipment. A growing medical tourism sector is generating demand for modern facilities with state-of the-art medical equipment. Medical device production will continue to be low and only limited to basic items, such as various types of syringes and IV sets.
Current UAE medical device regulations are based upon EU, Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), and U.S. Food and Drug Administration regulations. Products with EU, Australian, Canadian, and U.S. approval are eligible for a shortened registration process in the UAE. Furthermore, once the exporter company/manufacturer or distributor has been approved by the Ministry of Health and Prevention (MOHAP) committee, a registration number will be given that is valid for five years. The application approval issuance depends on the completion of the required documents by MOHAP.
An application to register a medical device in the UAE must be made by the device manufacturer or its local representative or distributor. The local representative or distributer must be formally authorized by the manufacturer to handle the application process and the manufacturer’s legal obligations and responsibilities with regards to placing the medical device on the UAE market. The authorized representative or distributor must be available to liaise between the medical device manufacturer and the MOHAP.
A mandatory health insurance model funds the national healthcare system in the UAE.
The main sources of funding in Abu Dhabi are:
The UAE Commercial Companies Law requires that each company established in the UAE have one or more UAE national partner(s) who hold at least 51% of the company’s capital. This could change with the recent announcement by the UAE Cabinet that foreign companies will be allowed to have 100% ownership.
Foreign companies may engage in a commercial agency arrangement whereby a foreign company is represented by a UAE agent to distribute, sell, offer, or provide goods or services within the UAE. The agent must either be a person holding UAE nationality or a company that is 100% owned by UAE nationals.
Most patients who travel to the UAE for healthcare are from the Middle East and North Africa, Thailand, and India – all of which are cheaper healthcare destinations than the UAE. The UAE maintains an advantage over these competitor nations vis-à-vis middle-to-high income patients. The UAE must attract patients from the wealthy upper-tier of Africa, the Middle East, and Asia, which is not easy, as many such patients can afford to go to Europe for treatment. Where the UAE will be able to outperform European providers is in offering culturally-suitable care for Muslim patients and high-quality specialized services.
Procurement & Tenders:
Dubai Health Authority Procurement Contacts:
Ayesha Ramadhan AlMehairbi
Director of Purchasing & Contracting Dept
Halima Ahmad Mohd Sultan
Tel: +971 4 219 7111
Date: 27th Jan. – 30st Jan. 2020
Venue: Dubai World Trade Center, Dubai - U.A.E.
Organized by: Kallman Worldwide Inc.
MedLab | Obs-Gyne
Date: 3rd Feb. – 6th Feb. 2019
Organized by: Scherago International & Informa Life Sciences Exhibitions
Date: 4th Feb. -6th Feb. 2019
Venue: Dubai World Trade Center, Dubai - UAE
Organized by: Index Conferences & Exhibitions
U.A.E. Government Health Care Links:
1. Who are the Regulatory Authorities for Pharmaceuticals in the UAE?
a. UAE Ministry of Health and Prevention (MOHAP)
b. Health Authority-Abu Dhabi (HAAD)
c. Dubai Health Authority (DHA)
d. Sharjah Health Authority (SHA)
These authorities monitor the licensing of pharmacists and pharmacies, the registration of pharmaceuticals and advertising guidelines for drugs. The MOHAP formulates nationwide health policies and regulates the healthcare market in the Northern Emirates. The healthcare systems of the country's two largest Emirates, Dubai and Abu Dhabi, are governed by DHA and HAAD respectively.
There was no separate entity to regulate the healthcare system in the Northern Emirates before 2009. The healthcare system of these Emirates fell under the authority of the MOHAP. Sharjah Health Authority was formed in May 2010 with the goal to transform and enhance the regional healthcare service industry.
2. What is the regulation of the packaging and labeling of medical products in the UAE?
3. What has been planned in UAE’s Healthcare expansion?
U.S. Commercial Service Contact Information
Commercial Specialist – Dubai
Tel: +971 4 309 4163
Name: George Messiha
Position: Commercial Specialist
Phone: +971 2 414 2524
AED 62.2 bn
... as percent of GDP
... of which spent on inpatient services (including long-term care)
... of which spent on pharmaceuticals
... of which spent on outpatient services
Hospitals, Procedures, Healthcare Professionals UN:
Number of hospitals
Number of U.A.E. hospital beds
...available beds per capita
1.37 per 1000 population
Number of surgical procedures
117.72 per ‘000 population (2016)
...of which [top procedure]
1. Orthopedic Surgery
3. General Surgery
Life expectancy men/women
6.6/1000 live births (2016) 7.4/1000 live births
5.8/1000 live births
Percent of population older than 65
...caused by [highest disease burden]
Cardiovascular and Neuro
...caused by [second highest]
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