Close to 5.5 m will have diabetes in Saudi Arabia by 2030

Updated 10 October 2012
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Close to 5.5 m will have diabetes in Saudi Arabia by 2030

A leading pharmaceutical company warned that the prevalence of diabetes has climbed steeply in Saudi Arabia during the last few years, and over 19 percent of the adult population is suffering from this disease at the moment. “The Kingdom, where around 2.8 million people have been diagnosed with diabetes, has the seventh highest rate in the world in terms of diabetes incidence,” said Dr. Wail Al-Qassim, general manager at Merck Sharp & Dohme (MSD yesterday.
He pointed out that the total number of people suffering from diabetes would come close to 5.5 million by 2030, if the incidence continues to increase at the current rate.
Al-Qassim said that an estimated 1.2 million Saudi citizens live with the disease but are yet to be diagnosed. He expressed his concerns over the growing prevalence of diabetes in Saudi Arabia and the Arab world. He said that more than SR 12 billion was spent every year on diabetes in Saudi Arabia. On a regional level, about SR 21 billion is spent on diabetes health care every year.
“We strongly believe in the need to raise awareness about diseases,” said A-Qassim, adding that MSD has a strategic partnership with the Ministry of Health, particularly in the area of diabetes. Its objective is to support health care providers’ efforts to treat chronic diseases and to stop or slow down the increased prevalence of diabetes by identifying current challenges. These initiatives are designed to increase patient’s awareness, empower patients to ensure self-management and improve disease management, he added.
Asked about the regulatory provisions of the GCC countries, when it comes to the importation, registration and approval of various drugs, he pointed out that the Gulf states, including the Kingdom, were working to modernize the regulatory and registration systems to harmonize them with international standards. “However, these reforms are still ongoing and we expect further enhancement of the processes leading to earlier access to newer therapies,” he said.
Al-Qassim said the registration and approval process of any new product could take up to two to three years from the submission of the file. This is a long period when Saudi Arabia is compared to other countries in the region, he noted. The Saudi Food & Drug Authority (SFDA) is looking at the possibility to clear a drug within six to nine months for sale in the Saudi market, he added.
The whole process to develop a new prescription medicine is very expensive and tiring, said Al-Qassim. “It costs about $ 800 million (SR 3,000 million) to research and develop a new medicine,” he said. But, only one out of a million potential new medicines screened by scientists at such high cost will ever make it to the pharmacist’s shelf, he noted.


Saudis recall history’s greatest TV event: Apollo moon landing

Updated 20 July 2019
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Saudis recall history’s greatest TV event: Apollo moon landing

  • The TV images beamed from 320,000km away in space left viewers astounded but happy
  • The TV coverage influenced thinking and attitudes in the Kingdom just like everywhere else

DUBAI: It was a sleepy afternoon in Saudi Arabia, just days before the end of the school vacation, and Saudis had their eyes glued to their TV sets as they waited for live coverage of the Apollo 11 moon landing.

Before July 20, 1969, the idea of a human walking on the moon was the stuff of science fiction. However, almost overnight, sci-fi had turned into reality with a live broadcast showing American astronaut Neil Armstrong’s dramatic descent onto the empty lunar landscape.

Between science fiction and science fact, the live coverage of the lunar landing amounted to an unusual fusion of news and entertainment.

Saudi TV technicians bring the first live images of Neil Armstrong’s 1969 moon landing to
viewers around the Kingdom. (Supplied photo)

The historic images — beamed back to Earth more than 320,000 km away — left Saudi viewers astounded and confused, but mostly elated to be witnessing such an epoch-making event.

The event was covered live on television and radio stations in Saudi Arabia. Most Saudis and residents living in the Kingdom watched it on Saudi channels 1 and 3, owned by Saudi Aramco.

Hessah Al-Sobaie, a housewife from Al-Dawadmi, recalled watching the moon landing from her grandparents’ backyard as an 11-year-old.

“It felt weird watching a human walk on the moon,” she told Arab News. “I remember the endless questions I asked as a child.”

While most people were aware that going to the moon was risky, many Saudis believed that such a journey was impossible and all but unthinkable.


EVENTS WATCH

1. NASA’s Apollo 11 mission control room in Houston has been restored to its 1969 condition and regular tours
will be conducted by the Johnson Space Center.

2. NASA ‘Science Live’ will have a special edition on July 23 on board the aircraft carrier that recovered the Apollo 11 capsule.

3. A summer moon festival and family street fair will be held in Wapakoneta, Ohio, from July 17-20.

4. Downtown Houston’s Discovery green will host a free public screening of the ‘Apollo 11’ documentary, with an appearance by NASA astronaut Steve Bowen.

5. Amateur radio operators will host a series of events on July 20-21.

6. The US Space and Rocket Center is staging a special ‘Rockets on Parade’ exhibition.


The Apollo 11 mission prompted discussions across the Middle East over the reality of what people saw on their TV screens. Some Saudi scholars found it hard to believe their eyes.

“I watched it, and I clearly remember each and every detail of the coverage,” Hayat Al-Bokhari, 68, a retired school principal in Jeddah, said.

“My father, Abdul, was 56 at the time. He said the landing was faked. He couldn’t believe or accept that a human could go to the moon.”

Khaled Almasud, 70, a retired university lecturer, was a student in the US state of Oregon at the time of the mission. “Americans were stunned and over the moon, happy with their national achievement. But many Saudis like me were either in denial or insisting on more proof.”

Since the beginning of the 1960s, King Faisal had been rapidly transforming Saudi Arabia, inviting foreign-trained experts to help build a modern country with world-class infrastructure.

Billie Tanner, now 90, lived in the Kingdom for many years with her husband, Larry, and their two children, Laurie and Scott, aged six and four. The family had just arrived in Saudi Arabia and headed to the Aramco compound in Ras Tanura in the Eastern Province.

A screengrab of video of the first lunar landing beamed toward Earth and shown on television worldwide. 

“We were going through a culture shock,” she told Arab News. “I wasn’t thinking of the moon landing, but we heard about it on the news from Dhahran.

“My kids tried to see the astronauts on the moon with their binoculars and said they could see them walking around.”

The Apollo 11 spaceflight has become a milestone in the annals of human history and science. Since 1969 space exploration has greatly expanded man’s knowledge of the universe, far beyond Earth’s limits.

The captivating live coverage of the moon landing inspired millions of people around the world, profoundly influencing their thinking and attitudes.

The people of Saudi Arabia were no exception.