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Pharmaceutical companies warn Saudi against disputes with Germany

Saudi Arabia’s Mohammad Bin Salman
Saudi Arabia’s Mohammad Bin Salman

The European and American medicines agencies have sent a letter to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman warning him of the dangers that the continuation of diplomatic disputes between the Kingdom and Germany might bring to the health sector.

The private letter dated June 12, obtained byReuters, pointed out that the continued restrictions imposed by the Kingdom on German medicines and medical devices may have a negative impact on Saudi patients and on the possibility of doubling investment in Kingdom in the future.

The agencies pointed in the letter, which Reuters described as "strongly-worded," to the high level of concern in Germany and abroad regarding the restrictions imposed by Riyadh on the sales of German medicines and medical devices in response to the German criticism of the Saudi policies. Diplomatic tension between Riyadh and Berlin dates back to last November when German Minister of Foreign Affairs Sigmar Gabriel condemned what he called "adventures in the Middle East" about Saudi policies. The kingdom called its ambassador from Germany, in response to these "disgusting" comments.

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Despite German Chancellor Angela Merkel's efforts to ease tensions, German officials have confirmed that the most significant German pharmaceutical companies have been barred from participating in swaps in Saudi Arabia.

Reuters quoted the official in the German Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Oliver Oehms, saying: "The talk is not about a total boycott, but the health sector is suffering a lot of losses. German healthcare companies have been struggling to work in the kingdom for the past six months."

The representative of the German company Siemens Healthineers, specialised in the production of medical devices, explained to the agency that its business in Saudi Arabia was affected by the dispute. He added that the company resorted to the US authorities to seek help in containing the crisis. Medicines syndicates refused to give further comments, but German officials told Reuters that medicines producers did not receive a response from Saudi Arabia to their letter and did not see any improvement since they were sent. Saudi authorities refused to comment on the issue.

Reuters pointed out that Germany has taken a conservative position regarding the recent diplomatic crisis between Saudi Arabia and Canada, and said that it is likely that this came out of fear of blowing up Berlin's efforts to settle the dispute with Riyadh.

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