Halal pharmaceuticals – medicines that do not contain any alcohol, parts of animals such as dogs, pigs, bees, or any other substances prohibited as ‘haram’ under Shariah law – are becoming increasingly widespread globally. This trend is especially prevalent in the Asia Pacific region, where the significant Muslim populations of Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei are more frequently choosing medical products that have been officially certified as halal.
“The market for halal and Shariah-compliant products is growing rapidly because of greater awareness and greater acceptance of these products among the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims.”
As Shahnas Oli Mohamed, the co-founder and managing director of Malaysian halal and natural product specialist Natural Wellness, explains, “The market for halal and Shariah-compliant products is growing rapidly because of greater awareness and greater acceptance of these products among the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims.”
Oli Mohamed continues, “In Malaysia, we are aided by the fact that it is easy to register halal products. We have a robust ecosystem in place, with the government promoting the halal agenda and Malaysia as a halal manufacturing hub. The conception of halal medicines in Malaysia is: if patients have the halal option available, they are free to take it. If they do not, they can choose among the remaining solutions. One is not obliged to forego a treatment if it is not halal.”
Dr Ramli Zainal, director of the National Pharmaceutical Regulatory Agency (NPRA), is also keen to highlight the Malaysian state’s receptiveness to the concept of halal medicine and its willingness to put forward the country as a leader in the field. He notes, “We see good opportunities for halal products. Indeed, in 2012 Malaysia set up the MS2424:2012 which was the first halal standard in the world. The NPRA is also involved in technical meetings to provide support to this industry.”
Domestic players such as Chulia Group, a diversified Malaysian company with operations across the pharma value chain, are evermore paying attention to the opportunities that the halal medicine field has to offer. Jamaludin Elis, country CEO for Malaysia of Chulia’s Life Sciences subsidiary, proudly declares, “With one of our partners in Singapore, we are one of the only companies in the world that have registered a real, 100 percent halal vaccine. Indeed, our partners researched and released the first fully halal vaccine for Human Influenza Type B (HiB). It will be followed by another three vaccines currently in our pipeline.”
Javed Ghulam Mohammad, CEO of AJ Research Pharma (AJRP), highlights the importance of the segment for his organization. “Most of our products, other than our branded generic pharmaceuticals, are halal certified,” he notes. “When it comes to herbal supplements and consumables, this is a very important segment as about 65 percent of the Malaysian consumer market are Muslim. Many consumers are reluctant to take medicine because of the non-halal factor. We can expand the market and make medicines available to this part of the community if we produce halal products. People who were reluctant to take the medicine will give us better compliance and AJRP can provide better service for this community.”