As part of Saudi Arabia’s ambitious ‘Vision 2030’ economic transformation plan, the country has centralised the public procurement of medications through the National Unified Procurement Company for Medical Supplies (NUPCO). Here, some of the Kingdom’s most prominent pharma leaders weigh in on the impact of this new system for their business operations, for the future sustainability of Saudi healthcare, and for Saudi patients’ ability to access medications.
Best Supply Chain Practice
Ashraf Daoud, AbbVie
“The role of NUPCO is significantly increasing to best supply chain practice across all governmental sectors in Saudi Arabia.
The process of registration, value pricing, HTA, market access and procurement is still a work-in-progress
“There is a noteworthy need for best management of the innovative medicine supply and access to the patients, to ensure availability and fast access to varieties of these new innovative medicines same time to its global presence.
“The process of registration, value pricing, HTA, market access and procurement is still a work-in-progress and needs more efforts to be simplified to the best of Saudi patients.”
Making Life Easier
Haitham Habashi, Merck
“Historically, each public hospital had its own budget and procurement process, but now all the public procurement of medications is done through NUPCO, which started many years ago and used to be optional but is now mandatory. All public hospitals must only buy through them, making it one of the main customers we deal with. It has a centralised process. They get orders from all public hospitals, independent of which ministry they belong to, including King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Centre, the largest in the Middle East.
NUPCO is helping the government get better quotes on large quantities and is making it easier for the industry
“At the beginning, NUPCO was only a tendering body, but it has acquired the medication stores of the Ministry of Health (MoH) and now they also distribute. NUPCO is helping the government get better quotes on large quantities and is making it easier for the industry.
“The new system makes sure that everyone receives the right medication. They have three different forms of purchase: the main tender which happens every two to three years, the second one called “marketplace”, which is an online tool similar to Amazon for direct purchases, and the third, which is new, is called “my prescription.” I believe that it’s a very good direction and will ease the way of working over time. Saudi patients will be able go to the hospital and receive an electronic prescription to get their medication at any private pharmacy in the new network.”
A Step Towards Sustainability
Georg Schroeckenfuchs, Novartis
“Every change creates opportunities for companies that move fast and try to work with the system. By centralizing, you have the opportunity for bigger volumes. We have to be smart in how we deal with centralised tender procedures. I would probably try the same approach if I were the government, why not?
We have to be smart in how we deal with centralised tender procedures
“This change is a good opportunity for Novartis in particular because, as one of the leading pharmaceutical companies, we have the agility and flexibility required. Because of our partnership mindset to create value for the future, we have to ensure that the system remains sustainable; it is in everybody’s interest that more patients get the treatment they need, and the healthcare system can be viable in the long term.”
Open Dialogue is Key
Mohamed Fawzy, Pfizer
“Today, NUPCO is one of the biggest technology-based service providers for centralised procurement of medicine and medical devices in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and the largest company of its kind in the Middle East. One of NUPCO’s most important approach and philosophy is the effective and active collaboration to transform healthcare services. At Pfizer, we ensured having such collaboration for decades, and it was well demonstrated during the pandemic, where we collaborated to ensure early access to our Pfizer BioNTech vaccine to our Saudi community.
Teams from the MoH, NUPCO, and Pfizer spent hours and hours mapping these steps, from the moment that the vaccine leaves Belgium to its arrival at the vaccination centres in Saudi
“The importance of open dialogue is a key takeaway. When partners come to the table and engage in open dialogue, mountains can be moved. As is widely known, the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine requires unique storage conditions; when the vaccine was launched the guidance was for it to be stored at -70°C±10°C. This requires every single step of the supply chain to be clearly outlined. Teams from the MoH, NUPCO, and Pfizer spent hours and hours mapping these steps, from the moment that the vaccine leaves Belgium to its arrival at the vaccination centres in Saudi. Through this mapping we were able to anticipate every potential challenge and assign accountability. Without compromising the quality of the checkpoints, these three teams came up with very innovative solutions to ensure that all challenges would be overcome. Being part of this three-way open dialogue and executing this complex but vital task was a proud moment in my life.”
Addressing the Pain Points
Dimitri Livadas, Lilly
“It has been impressive to see the level of unification and transparency that NUPCO has been able to bring, something that not necessarily existed before.
The establishment of NUPCO addresses some of the pain points caused by the level of fragmentation in the public sector
“The establishment of NUPCO addresses some of the pain points caused by the level of fragmentation in the public sector. NUPCO is a professional supply chain organization and is very well positioned to drive greater efficiencies while ensuring availability for patients.”
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