Halal drugs audit: Brunei’s other promise

WHILE the halal market is largely concentrated on food, Brunei has
already begun developing its halal guidelines for the pharmaceutical

The Brunei Islamic Religious Council is yet to
finalise work on the document but once it is completed, this would put
the Sultanate in the forefront of growth in the global market, Selma
Djukic, president of White Owl Global Services Ltd, a service and
consulting agency targeting the pharmaceutical industry, says in a talk
with The Brunei Times’ Debbie Too. The Canadian firm specialises in
research, drug development, natural health and biotechnology, project

BT: With the Brunei Agro Technology Park and the
Brunei Halal guidelines for pharmaceuticals, what chances does Brunei
have in the global pharmaceutical industry?

Selma: There is a
huge opportunity for Brunei, the country. For it to have come up with
the standards, so it is already leading in that area. There are lots of
opportunities that are tied in with having these standards and so I
think that the advantages that the park has, combined with the
additional opportunities of the guidelines, are putting Brunei at the
forefront, in terms of the potential of the pharmaceuticals industry.

pharmaceuticals industry has a wide spectrum of opportunities under it
from research to ingredients to packaging even. Is there a market niche
that you think Brunei could start off with?

I haven’t done a
market survey to see what is going on in Brunei, but what I’ve gathered
is that having standards puts you automatically in auditing. Having to
go out and audit companies to see that they are meeting the halal
integrity that is required, right there is a huge opportunity for

Could auditing be a part of research as well?

research part is a huge part of some of the science that needs to
happen, to look at formulations, and I think there are some really good
opportunities for Brunei in this sector as well.

How could the park and guidelines help with bringing Brunei more exposure in the halal pharmaceutical industry?

could be a platform. I’ve met (representatives from) a Canadian company
here who are setting up an operation in the park. So to attract that
kind of corporations to do some of their work here is in relation to a
combination of the two.

How big is the global halal pharmaceuticals market now?

on how you read it, the entire halal market is about US$1-2 trillion,
and for the halal pharmaceuticals, it is said to be within 25 per cent
of that. The halal pharmaceuticals market herbal and traditional
medicine, or healthcare. So you’re looking at about US$500 billion
plus, and now even more so with the exponential growth of the herbal
and traditional medicine.

Would Brunei’s market size be a disadvantage in trying to breaking into the global market?

terms of countries and in terms of what is expected in the industry,
it’s all standards-driven. So if you have good standards that are
internationally recognised and they are understood and flexible, these
are all pluses that kind of work.

I would not say that a smaller country versus a larger country has a disadvantage.

What obstacles can be expected?

are obvious obstacles that might have to be overcome, but again it
comes down to the integrity of the product and the quality of the
product, the quality of the work that’s done as well. These are the key
elements that the pharmaceutical industry as a whole will be looking
at. That will be what differentiates Brunei, and even in terms of
branding of the country as a whole.

In terms of branding the
country as a whole, it is also tied into the standards or guidelines,
or regulatory requirements that the country has. So if you’ve got a
sound system, where you’ve got assured quality, then you are
competitive in the global market.

Are people more aware about
halal pharmaceuticals? Is the Muslim market at a point where consumers
would only buy halal pharmaceuticals and nothing else?

halal is a concept in pharmaceuticals that is a fairly new idea, in
terms of its gaining traction, but it’s not as ingrained as, for
example, food. It is not the number one response in people (to think of
pharmaceuticals when they think of what’s halal), but that’s changing
over time.

Is it safe to say that the Brunei halal standards
right now are an advantage to Brunei and Brunei companies in breaking
into the halal pharmaceutical market?

Given that if you have
standards that can assure quality in a product, internationally, people
are willing to look into it and try to ensure that whatever they are
doing will meet this standard, and so I think that from an
international perspective, global players are going to look at it and
see how this works in a positive way.

The Brunei Times