in the fast-growing halal pharmaceutical sector. The country’s economic
development board has published the world’s first guidelines for
producing medicines, vitamins and nutritional supplements that comply
with Islamic law. It is hoped the clearly-defined rules will attract
foreign investors and boost the country’s economy.
BMI notes that one company – Canada’s Viva Pharmaceutical
– has already expressed an interest in establishing a US$12mn
halal-certified manufacturing plant in Brunei. Up to 100 local people
could be employed at the facility. Because of this potential economic
stimulus, it is our view that other countries, such as Malaysia and
Indonesia, will emulate Brunei and formalise rules for the manufacture
of halal medicines.
Halal is an Arabic term meaning ‘permissible’, and with
respect to pharmaceuticals, it excludes products derived from blood,
swine and animals slaughtered in the name of anyone but God. As such,
many medicines – for example those compounded in capsules with the
animal product gelatin – cannot generally be consumed by observant
Muslims. Pharmaceutical companies have been aware of this niche for
some time, but it is only recently that drugmakers have explicitly
targeted the area for growth.
Brunei is fairly well suited to develop a halal-certified
manufacturing base. It has the second highest Human Development Index
among the South East Asia nations, after Singapore, and is classified
as a developed country. The government provides all medical services
free of charge and subsidises rice and housing. Crude oil and natural
gas production account for nearly half of its GDP. Most importantly,
Islam is Brunei’s official religion.
Demand for halal-certified pharmaceutical is increasing
rapidly. With approximately 1.57bn adherents, Islam is the world’s
second largest religion and third-fastest growing. It is the
predominant faith in the Middle East, North Africa, and large parts of
Asia. As economies in these regions expand, demand for healthcare in
general and halal-certified pharmaceuticals in particular will rise.
It is clear that Brunei is committed to halal-certified products. In July 2009, the country launched the Brunei Halal
trademark. The designation will allow compliant manufacturers to
leverage Brunei’s strict compliance with laws relating to Islamic
At that time, a new state-owned company, Brunei Wafirah Holdings Sdn Bhd, was established as the owner of the Brunei Halal brand. Wafirah entered into a joint venture with Brunei Global Islamic Investment and Hong Kong-based logistics firm Kerry FSDA to form Ghanim International Food Corporation Sdn Bhd. Ghanim International manages the use of the Brunei Halal trademark.