Two pharmacists who set up a business to help make medicine more accessible across the Middle East have opened a new office in the capital of Qatar.
Mustafa Al-Shalechy and Ali Alshamari, who hold masters-level pharmacy degrees from the University of Bradford, are originally from Iraq.
The duo launched CurePharma in 2016 to export modern medicine to Iraq but since then the Wetherby-based firm has started doing business in Qatar, Bahrain, Yemen, Jordan and Kuwait.
Mr Al-Shalechy said: “Our new Qatar office will make it far easier for us to liaise with clients, handle tenders and hear about opportunities for our UK partners.
“It will also give us a lot of credibility in the Middle East to be able to deal with paperwork and sign contracts locally.”
The new Doha office is staffed by husband-and-wife pharmacists Saif and Gina Alderzi, from Lincolnshire, who joined CurePharma in the UK 18 months ago.
CurePharma says the purpose of the office is to liaise with clients, agents and national governments issuing medical supply tenders throughout the region.
The expansion comes after CurePharma exported £500,000 worth of prescription pharmaceuticals and over-the-counter products to Middle East countries in 2017.
“As both Saif and Gina are Arab language speakers and our Doha office is only an hour’s flight from all the countries we serve, we expect it to accelerate our growth throughout the Middle East where there is wide interest in what we and our UK partners can provide,” Mr Al-Shalechy said.
Opening an office in the Middle East will enable the two pharmacy entrepreneurs to spend more time developing the business in the UK.
Mr Alshamari said: “In developing CurePharma, we have both travelled widely in the Middle East, which involves an initial seven-hour flight, but the Doha office will enable us to spend more time in the UK developing relationships with more British pharmaceutical companies and sourcing a wider range of export products.”
The two former school and university friends set up CurePharma after hearing that Iraqi people were denied proper medical care because badly-needed, good-quality UK medicines were unavailable, or too expensive, due to the post-war economic upheaval.
Mr Al-Shalechy said that UK pharmaceutical and healthcare products were recognised for their quality in Iraq and that British brands were highly sought after.
The director of CurePharma finished his degree four years ago and has gained experience working for the likes of the Co-operative, Lloydspharma and Harrogate Hospital.
Both Mr Al-Shalechy and his business partner came from Iraq to Yorkshire with their families as children.
CurePharma has now completed four shipments to Iraq of prescription and over-the-counter medicines, including painkillers, analgesics, and diuretics bound for hospitals, pharmacies and medical clinics.
It has also accessed a network of 400 Middle East agents able to help distribute a range of UK medical products.
The company, which received start-up export advice from overseas trade specialist Chamber International, now works with pharmaceutical, medical devices and healthcare products manufacturers in Bolton, Bradford, Hull, London and Pocklington.
As well as opening the new office, CurePharma has also developed its own range of food and dietary supplements.
These include Omega 3, glucosamine and multi-vitamins, contract manufactured for the UK and overseas markets where they can be tailored to individual country requirements.
The overseas expansion comes off the back of both Mr Al-Shalechy and Mr Alshamari meeting 150 prospective customers at CurePharma’s stand at Arab Health.
The Wetherby-based business was shortlisted in the micro exporter of the year category at the Northern Powerhouse Awards 2017.
CurePharma won the Duke of York young entrepreneur award at Huddersfield University in April 2017.