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SAUDI ARABIA - Health & Education

Hisham S. Aljadhey

Executive President, Saudi Food & Drug Authority


Hisham S. Aljadhey has been in his current position since 2016. He is also a member of several boards, including the Saudi Health Council, Saudi Standards, the Metrology and Quality Organization, the Saudi Center for Disease Prevention and Control, the National Unified Procurement Company, the Saudi Patient Safety Center, and the National Institute of Health Research. He studied at King Saud University and obtained master’s and PhD qualifications from Purdue University.

"At the SFDA, we adopted a productive digital transformation plan that ensures the success of the whole operational process whether performed locally or internationally."
The SFDA is looking to set the standard as a leading international regulator by modernizing the field through the use of technology.
The pandemic brought unprecedented set of challenges to the food and drug sectors in Saudi Arabia. What were the main challenges for the SFDA and how did the authority go about navigating the last two years?

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the country underwent thorough challenges to ensure the security of an abundance of food, medicine, devices and medical supplies, on which the SFDA decided to impose firm measures and precautions, for instance pausing the export of pharmaceuticals, veterinary drugs and medical devices to ensure their availability to citizens and residents. The SFDA also launched a platform for disclosing the drug stock, in addition to following up on reports of shortages from pharmaceutical companies, and also worked to support the local manufacturing of sterilizers and masks. The authority has continued to support the manufacturing of raw materials for medicines and the production capacities of the generic medicines industry. As a result, that has enormously expedited the operation process and developed it on all levels. As a result of our achievements, the first registration of a COVID-19 vaccine in Saudi Arabia happened in December 2020, followed by the registration of three other vaccines at the beginning of 2021. A special working group was also formed to clear COVID-19 vaccines, with a completion rate of dispatches that did not exceed 30 minutes, to ensure the safety and quality of the chain of transportation and storage for those vaccines.

What has been the process of digitalizing the SFDA’s services?

At the SFDA, we adopted a productive digital transformation plan that ensures the success of the whole operational process whether performed locally or internationally. Furthermore, the SFDA’s beneficiaries embraced its pivotal role through online communication that is responsive and proactive in delivering all the needs and wants of the public

What are the priorities going forward when it comes to digitally innovating SFDA’s operations?

The SFDA seeks be a leading international science-based regulator to protect and promote public health. An essential priority is to invest in emerging technologies to cultivate the control processes to be able to implement a high-level of product supervision. As of now, the SFDA has efficiently utilized modern technologies to accelerate the registration and licensing of processes, as well as increased the reliability of systems by adopting robotic process automation (RPA), blockchain, AI, and IoT.

How did processes change during the pandemic when the demand for pharmaceutical products increased?

The SFDA has undertaken many initiatives related to the registration of medicines and ensure the stability of supplies of essential pharmaceutical products. For example, the extension of shelf-life of essential medicines, a dedicated path for adding sources of active substances, and providing incentives for manufacturing essential pharmaceutical generic products by local manufacturers in collaboration with other governmental bodies. This is in addition to providing incentives to international and local pharmaceutical industries and agents to encourage diversification of drug registration sources for essential medicines.

In 2021, SFDA participated in an international virtual event about food safety that aimed to educate consumers around safe food. Going forward, what is the SFDA’s strategy to educate the Saudi population?

The SFDA’s strategy in educating the Saudi population to consume safe food is based on its mission to protect communities through effective legislation and control to ensure the safety of its products. The authority seeks to make its activities in the field of food safety awareness effective and proactive, as one of the strategic objectives is to increase society’s awareness of the products subject to the control of the authority. Also, one of the most important strategic objectives of the authority is to enhance confidence in the authority’s role to protect the community. Therefore, the authority uses many different ways and means to communicate with the community on an ongoing basis. At the authority, we are always keen to measure consumer awareness and culture related to food safety and to ensure the accuracy and reliability of information sources on food safety, which helps the authority in preparing and designing messages directed to consumers that enable them to make informed choices that enhance public health. There are several challenges that we face while educating the Saudi community to consume safe food. The biggest challenge is controlling the spread of rumors and false information about food safety. Due to the widespread use of social media, anyone can spread rumors and false information about food safety. Therefore, the authority is constantly present on social media to monitor and correct misinformation related to food safety.



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