A senior official in Oman's health ministry has underlined the government's enthusiasm for cost-effective medicines, and its commitment to developing drugs to control common diseases. At present, the oil-rich Gulf state boasts only two small homegrown producers, with imports accounting for 95% of market value.

In view of the growing problem of lifestyle-related illness, Oman's need for affordable drugs is pressing. A new national health survey has found that 11.6% of the adult population suffers from diabetes, with the incidences of hypertension and obesity reported at 33% and 19.1%, respectively.

The official comments also indicate concern that prescribing may be exceeding "rational" levels, as prescription drugs already account for 90% of pharmaceutical expenditure in Oman. Accordingly, Oman's fellow Gulf Co-operation Council members have agreed a joint purchasing structure and a unified price mechanism for drugs. Nevertheless, although the country began direct pricing negotiations with manufacturers in 2003, import tariffs for drugs are currently reported at only 5%.