The United Arab Emirates (UAE)’s national fund for the purchase of medicines has doubled, from 150 million dirhams in 2010 to 300 million dirhams for this year. 

The Ministry of Health is in contact with drugmakers to commence production of medicines for supply to medical zones, hospitals and health facilities throughout the UAE following instructions from the federal government, and the products are now available at all hospitals and health centres, Health Minister Dr Hanif Hassan Ali said late last week.

The total cost of drugs purchased for use throughout the country during the past two months reached 117 million dirhams, health officials added.

The Minister also announced that the new WAREED computer records system, begun by the Ministry at the start of 2009, is due to be completed this year, and its implementation will mean that "all problems related to medical practices and treatment techniques will end."

WAREED is the largest public health care initiative in the Middle East and aims to revolutionise the delivery of care in the UAE through a fully-integrated health information system, integrating 14 Ministry hospitals and 68 affiliated clinics in Dubai and the northern Emirates.

The new system will improve both in-patient and out-patient care by enabling medical staff to access medical records more quickly and conveniently, and patient safety will be improved as medication errors will be less likely, says the Ministry. WAREED will also boost collaboration between medical professionals and the implementation of best practice, and enable long-term health trends and patterns to be analysed, particularly in the field of disease management, thus facilitating the prioritisation and planning of future health care investments.

With the implementation of WAREED, all medical procedures "will be done through an automated system with accuracy and efficiency," the Health Minister added.

Meantime, with annual growth in double digit sober the last few years, the UAE is regarded as the most lucrative pharmaceutical market in the Middle East, and sales there are expected to increase by an average of around 17% a year to 2013 , according to a new report.

This "astounding" rate of growth is due to a number of factors, such as the UAE's rapidly-growing population,  liberal trade policies and adoption of international health care standards, according to the report, which is published by RNCOS.

Consumers in the UAE have a strong preference for branded medicines rather than cheaper generics, and the government has responded to this by attempting to increase demand for generics through a variety of measures, including tight restrictions on the advertising of medicines and a ban on direct marketing to consumers, according to the study. It also points out that demand for over-the-counter (OTC) medicines is growing at a faster rate than for prescription drugs, and that this is fuelling an increase in the number of pharmacies.