The Business Year

Mohammed A. S. Al Meshal

SAUDI ARABIA - Health & Education

Comply With Me

Executive President, Saudi Food & Drug Authority (SFDA)

Bio

Mohammed A. S. Al Meshal graduated from King Saud University’s College of Pharmacy in Riyadh, later obtaining his PhD from Bradford University in the UK. He began his career as a pharmacist and has worked at King Saud University and many other organizations in both the public and private sectors both as a consultant and an executive. He was appointed by royal decree to the position of Executive President at the Saudi Food and Drug Authority (SFDA) in April 2013.

How do you see the importance of regulation in the food and drug sector? Regulations are essential because they protect the market and the population from counterfeit products. Our regulations […]

How do you see the importance of regulation in the food and drug sector?

Regulations are essential because they protect the market and the population from counterfeit products. Our regulations apply across the board, to all players in the market, and we do not treat local and international players differently. Our job is to ensure that all the products in the market comply with the regulations. Applying the same standards and principles to both international and local products not only safeguards the market from low-quality products, it also results in local products becoming more competitive.

Over the past decade, what have been the main initiatives of the Saudi Food and Drug Authority (SFDA)?

We are putting our knowledge into action, and implementing our guidelines in accordance with our mandate. We are using electronic tracking to speed up our operations, and we have formed strong ties with leading regulatory entities, such as the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), to assist us in our work. We intend to strengthen our collaboration with the FDA even more. One of SFDA’s main goals is to standardize its regulations with those of our neighboring countries. The food and drug industry is a fast-moving one, and we need to adapt to it. Even the best regulations become outdated rapidly, and we have to actively cope with such changes.

Saudi Arabia is an enormous country with a fast-developing economy. What are the challenges of regulating and enforcing the standards in such circumstances?

We are adapting an electronic control system, with the aim of becoming a paperless organization by the end of 2014. We use electronic communications between our head office in Riyadh and our local branches. We also have an ambitious plan for expanding our branch network across Saudi Arabia—we plan to open around 15 new branches within the next four years. It will take some time to find appropriate premises and hire the necessary staff. A particular challenge for the SFDA is that we need to take into consideration certain religious and cultural rules when adapting international regulations for use in Saudi Arabia.

The SFDA aims to increase the competitiveness of Saudi Arabian producers abroad. What efforts ensure that all the companies in the Saudi Arabian pharmaceutical market are competing on the same level?

We have a number of procedures; the first is that we visit the company to ensure it complies with the regulations. We also make sure that any imported product is marketed in its country of origin. Then, the product goes through the registration process. After that, we analyze samples. We also collect and study samples after a product is in the market. Along with regulating the products, we are making the market as competitive as we can, because consumers benefit from the competition. The guidelines and regulations are clear, and we collaborate with the government agencies in the countries that we have relationships with to make sure we apply the same standards as they do. We also collaborate with international agencies to ensure our supply chain is secure. By controlling the market ,we increase competitiveness. The percentage of counterfeit products in Saudi Arabia is extremely low compared to other developed countries. It is less than 1%, according to our surveys.

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