Home > UAE Company Setup > How To Start a Pharmacy In Dubai

How To Start a Pharmacy In Dubai

Nov 29, 2023 | UAE Company Setup

To start a pharmacy in Dubai is to tap into a rich vein of opportunity within a rapidly growing healthcare market. Embarking on this venture requires navigating legal requirements and regulations, ensuring compliance with the Dubai Health Authority (DHA) and understanding the nuanced market dynamics. With the pharmaceutical sector’s projected growth and Dubai’s favourable business climate, setting up a pharmacy ensures you’re strategically positioned within a lucrative industry.

If you’re wondering how to start a pharmacy in, Dubai, we have your back! We will walk you through the process, from licensing to finding the right location, and highlight how entities like Virtuzone can facilitate the journey for entrepreneurs keen on establishing our presence in Dubai’s promising pharmaceutical landscape.

Legal Requirements to Start a Pharmacy

Pharmacy Licensing Process

To open a pharmacy in Dubai, you’ll need to navigate the licensing process managed by the Dubai Health Authority (DHA). The DHA sets pharmaceutical standards, implements healthcare policies, and issues licences to healthcare and pharmacy businesses here. You must secure a licence from the DHA to manufacture, purchase, and sell pharmaceutical products legally within the UAE. This permit also allows you to sell medical products as retail items in various residential areas.

The licensing process is divided into two main stages: initial and final approval. You submit an application detailing the proposed location, including plot number and schematic design, to the Health Regulation Department (HRD). The HRD reviews your application against its regulations. If your application meets the requirements, you’ll get initial licence approval. If it’s rejected, the HRD will provide a list of deficiencies you must address.

After getting initial approval, you’ll send the application to the Dubai Department of Economic Development (DED) for mainland applications. The final stage involves submitting an online request for a final inspection by the HRD. If you pass this inspection and meet all recommendations, you’ll receive an approval letter for your pharmacy licence.

Required Documentation

You’ll need a comprehensive set of documents for a smooth licensing process. Applicants must provide a pharmacy certificate from a recognised medical training institute and proof of at least two years of professional experience. A pharmacy evaluation from the Ministry of Health and Prevention is also necessary. Plus, you’ll need to register and obtain a trade licence from the Department of Economic Development.

You will also require the following:

  • A CV that showcases your relevant experience
  • A contract for the same pharmacy premises
  • A residency visa, corporate bank account details
  • A copy of your passport
  • Passport-size photographs

The cost of applying for a pharmacy licence in the UAE typically ranges from USD 2,723 to 3,268 (AED 10,000 to 12,000), but this can vary based on your business model, location, and the number of employees.

Pharmacy Setup In-Store

Health Authority Regulations

Pharmacies in Dubai must comply with operational standards set by the DHA. These include having a qualified pharmacist-in-charge who meets the DHA’s qualification criteria. You must also employ an adequate number of pharmacists and pharmaceutical technicians. The pharmacy’s licence should be displayed within the store, and the operational hours must be clearly visible to customers.

Your premises should be at least 30 sq. metres and meet specific standards. For instance, the pharmacy should be on the ground floor, except in commercial centres, and maintain a minimum distance of 200 metres from the nearest pharmacy. Your facility must be equipped with the following:

  • Shelves
  • Storage tanks
  • An air-tight locker for controlled medicines
  • A refrigerator with a digital thermometer
  • Adequate air conditioning
  • Curtains for sun-exposed glass facades
  • Fire extinguishers
  • Insect deterrent devices

Ownership and Partnership Laws

The legal framework for owning a pharmacy in Dubai is quite strict. The UAE Commercial Companies Law and the UAE Federal Law govern the establishment and operation of pharmacies. A non-citizen can’t own a pharmaceutical establishment outright; ownership must be with a UAE national. A local partner who will be a majority shareholder is required for limited liability companies (LLC) if the business owner isn’t a UAE national.

The law permits a UAE national to operate a maximum of two pharmacies within the UAE. Abu Dhabi strictly enforces this limit, while other Emirates may be more flexible. It’s important to remember that the health licence of a pharmacy is usually issued in the name of the UAE national partner(s), who is listed as the “owner” or “holder” of the licence. When setting up a pharmacy licence, you can choose either an LCC or a sole establishment as your business structure, which will determine the statutory ownership restrictions.

Benefits Of Opening A Pharmacy In Dubai

Dubai’s reputation as a global business hub is well-earned, with its economy being one of the most diversified and rapidly growing in the world. Known as the ‘City of Gold’, Dubai has made significant strides in various sectors, including industrialisation, manufacturing, trade, and tourism. Its strategic location and pro-business government policies have made it an attractive destination for entrepreneurs and investors like you.

The allure of Dubai for business owners is multifaceted. The emirate’s liberal regulatory environment and supportive governmental policies create a conducive atmosphere for new ventures. If you’re considering the pharmaceutical sector, the benefits are particularly compelling.

The UAE pharmacy retail market is on an upward trajectory, with projections indicating a compound annual growth rate from $5.193 billion in 2022 to $9.541 billion by 2030. This represents a CAGR of 7.9% over the forecast period, signalling a robust market for new pharmacies.

Moreover, Dubai’s tax regime favours foreign investors, exempt from personal and capital gains taxes. Implementing VAT at a mere 5% is considerably lower than in many other commercial capitals, further enhancing the financial appeal of starting a business in Dubai.

The city’s excellent aviation connectivity, with thousands of flights weekly to destinations around the globe, facilitates easy travel for business owners and supplies.

The UAE’s commitment to ease of doing business is evident in its global ranking, where it climbed to the 11th position. This is supported by the availability of new “plug-and-play” office spaces, simplifying the process of setting up a physical presence.

For those in the healthcare sector, the growth prospects are particularly promising. The healthcare industry in the UAE was expanding rapidly even before the pandemic, with healthcare spending reaching $18.2 billion in 2018 and projected to hit $21.3 billion.

This growth is driven by factors such as an increasing population, rising disposable incomes, and a focus on preventative healthcare. The government’s active role in improving healthcare infrastructure and increasing healthcare expenditure is expected to drive the pharmaceutical market further.

The retail pharmacy market in the UAE is growing and highly competitive, with a mix of major international and regional players. The market is strictly regulated by MOHAP and other government bodies like the DHA and the Abu Dhabi Department of Health (DoH).

These regulations are in place to ensure the quality and safety of pharmaceutical products, monitor drug prices, and regulate drug import, export, and distribution. The government also promotes the use of generic drugs. It has implemented insurance coverage for prescription drugs, increasing accessibility for those who might otherwise struggle to afford medication.

In addition to these measures, the UAE has taken a strong stance against counterfeit drugs, implementing strict regulations to prevent their influx into the market. This commitment to quality and safety further enhances the credibility of the pharmaceutical sector in Dubai.

For pharmacists looking to get a trade licence to open an independent pharmacy in Dubai, the process involves obtaining accreditation from the DHA and having at least two years of professional experience. A site assessment of the proposed pharmacy location is also part of the process.

Pharmacist Working In Pharmacy With Customer

Finding the Right Location

Researching High-Demand Areas

Identifying neighbourhoods where there is a significant need for pharmaceutical services is crucial when establishing a pharmacy in Dubai. The increasing prevalence of chronic conditions, a growing elderly demographic, and heightened health consciousness are contributing to the expansion of the pharmacy retail market. It’s essential to analyse areas where the shift towards lifestyle-related disorders is most pronounced to ensure your location aligns with consumer demand.

Proximity to Healthcare Facilities

The proximity of your pharmacy to medical establishments can significantly influence its performance. Pharmacies situated near hospitals, clinics, and medical centres typically experience higher foot traffic. This convenience for patients who require immediate access to prescriptions or over-the-counter medications can also foster partnerships with healthcare providers, potentially resulting in a steady stream of referrals.

Understanding Rent and Infrastructure Costs

Assessing the financial aspects of establishing a pharmacy, such as rent and infrastructure expenses, is critical. In high-demand areas, rental costs can be substantial. Additionally, the initial investment required to outfit a pharmacy to meet the stringent standards set by MOHAP and other regulatory bodies like DHA and DoH must be factored into your financial planning.

The government’s endorsement of generic medications as a cost-effective alternative to brand-name drugs may also influence your stock selection and pricing decisions. Conducting a thorough financial analysis is advisable to ensure the viability of your business plan in the competitive UAE retail pharmacy landscape.

The Pharmaceutical Industry in Dubai

Current Market Scenario

The pharmaceutical sector in Dubai is anticipated to reach a market value of $4.7 billion by 2025. The UAE has traditionally imported substantial medical supplies from countries like Germany, the United States, and Switzerland. This has fostered collaborations with international pharmaceutical corporations, as it provides residents with access to a wide range of medications.

In a bid to enhance medicine security and manage healthcare expenses, the UAE is increasingly focusing on domestic pharmaceutical production. With over 20 manufacturing facilities, the nation has produced more than 2,500 pharmaceutical products. This domestic capability, combined with a strategic healthcare vision and efficient production methods, positions the UAE to swiftly meet global health demands.

Growth Opportunities in Dubai’s Health Sector

Investment in Dubai’s healthcare industry is burgeoning, with the Dubai Industrial Strategy 2030 targeting the creation of a knowledge-based, sustainable, and innovation-driven business environment. By 2022, the city aims to draw $2.5 billion in pharmaceutical research and manufacturing investment. The recent authorisation of 143 health facilities in the first quarter of 2023, bringing the total to 4,609, highlights Dubai’s status as a leading healthcare centre.

The DHA has reported an increase in health professional licence applications, suggesting a 10-15% growth rate for medical professionals. Factors such as the ageing population, higher incomes, and a preventative healthcare approach contribute to the market’s growth. The government’s policies also play a pivotal role in the expansion of the pharmacy retail sector.

Regulatory Framework for Pharmacies

The UAE’s regulatory environment for pharmacies is comprehensive and rigorously enforced. MOHAP, along with the DHA and DoH, oversees the regulation of the retail pharmacy market. Pharmacies are required to obtain a licence from MOHAP, and the Ministry must approve all medications. The government regulates drug pricing and oversees pharmaceutical importation, exportation, and distribution.

The government advocates for generic medications to ensure affordability and safeguard against counterfeit drugs. It has established strict measures to prevent the entry of counterfeit drugs into the market. The burgeoning e-commerce industry also bolsters the retail pharmacy sector’s growth. With the e-commerce market expected to grow at a CAGR of 11.22%, reaching USD 18.58 billion by 2029, the pharmacy sector is set for considerable expansion.

The UAE’s strategic location and advanced logistics infrastructure are anticipated to benefit the pharmaceutical market. Government initiatives like the Dubai Industrial Strategy 2030 and the Abu Dhabi Vision 2030 are focused on reducing the dependency on imported pharmaceuticals and bolstering local manufacturing through investment in research and development. The market is categorised into generic, over-the-counter, and patented drugs, with generics occupying the largest market share.

Pharmacist Working In Pharmacy With Customer

How Virtuzone Can Help You Start Your New Business

Embarking on a new business venture in Dubai is exciting yet complex. Virtuzone, with its extensive experience since 2009, has been a cornerstone for over 70,000 entrepreneurs, providing them with the necessary support to establish a businesses with ease and efficiency.

The process of obtaining a facility licence and setting up a company in Dubai or elsewhere in the UAE can be overwhelming, particularly for foreign entrepreneurs unfamiliar with the local procedures. Virtuzone streamlines this process, offering expert advice on selecting the appropriate licence and ensuring that your application is tailored to your business objectives. This crucial step forms the bedrock of your enterprise’s operations in Dubai.

As you progress with licensing, addressing the legal requirements of employment is another significant step. Virtuzone assists in obtaining new employment entry permits for your workforce, adhering to the stipulation of the application form and securing residence visa status within a stipulated time frame after the employee arrives in the UAE. This service is essential for legalising your team’s employment and residency status.

By establishing a corporate bank account in the UAE may be daunting for foreign business owners. Virtuzone demystifies this task by advising on the required documents, documentation and procedures. While a visit to the UAE is mandatory, our guidance simplifies the process.

The procedures for securing employment and residence visas for your staff are multifaceted and can extend over several weeks. Virtuzone’s consultants are skilled at managing these processes, which are vital for those considering more permanent residency options like the Golden Visa, designed for investors, entrepreneurs, and qualified professionals wishing to establish a lasting presence in the UAE.

Virtuzone’s familiarity with the UAE’s free zones, each designed to cater to specific industries with unique benefits and regulations, can be instrumental in pinpointing the optimal location for your business, maximising the benefits of operating within these specialised environments.

Embark on Your Pharmacy Journey

Starting a pharmacy in the dynamic city of Dubai is a journey filled with opportunities and potential. With the right blend of research, compliance, and strategic planning, your vision for a thriving pharmacy business in Dubai can become a reality. The robust market, favourable business conditions, and comprehensive infrastructure are set to support your entrepreneurial spirit.

At Virtuzone, we are dedicated to translating your business aspirations into successful ventures. Whether you’re navigating complex licensing procedures, seeking strategic locations, or requiring assistance with legal formalities, our team is here to guide you every step of the way.

Ready to make a lasting impact in Dubai’s healthcare landscape? Let’s begin crafting the success story of your new pharmacy together.

Contact Us

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Start your business today

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.