An unhealthy industry: MENA pharmaceuticals industry at critical juncture

497The MENA pharmaceutical industry is at a crossroads: limited resources, change in the public policy and patients’ access to medicine, growing market, and increasing investments, coupled with patents expiring and low research and innovative products capabilities are some of the issues the industry is battling, Boehringer Ingelheim said Wednesday at the launch of its latest white paper, “Pharmaceutical Industry in the MENA region: Challenges and Recommendations”, authored by Gihan Hamdy, Head of Pharmacoeconomic Unit at the Central Administration for Pharmaceutical Affairs (CAPA), Egyptian Ministry of Health.

The primary objective of the paper is to provide independent research into the regional industry and raise awareness around the challenges, trends and impediments to growth in the MENA market.

Considering the relatively high cost of health care and delayed availability of new medicines, the MENA region countries have to make some serious efforts to boost their pharmaceutical industry.

The white paper examines the current situation outlining the opportunities and challenges of the pharmaceutical industry, current government needs and analyzing gaps within the pharmaceutical industry, impact of the pricing system on access to medicines, insights on the upcoming health care reforms, and recommendations for the pharmaceutical industry in the near future.

To attract foreign investments into the pharmaceutical sector, governments across the region should engage with the multinational companies and effectively communicate their plans of encouraging private sector involvement in the region and gradually shifting the burden of medical care from the government to employers and private insurance companies. The private capital outlay in the industry is anticipated to rise as governments across the region plan to provide a range of incentives for domestic and international players to set up new production plants, the report said.

There’s an increasing need for raising awareness campaigns for rational selection and use of medicine to avoid loss in effectiveness leading to better allocation of public resources and consequently higher coverage for more products.

The pharmaceutical industry is expected to experience sustainable growth in the medium to long term. Saudi Arabia is expected to maintain its position as the largest pharmaceutical market within the Gulf in the foreseeable future. The UAE is also likely to be the second largest pharmaceutical market. Egypt, Algeria and Lebanon have many opportunities that can boost the overall market growth. The effective and timely implementation of these recommendations may positively alter the actual growth trajectory of the market going forward.

Commenting on the launch, Karim El Alaoui, Managing Director and Head of Prescription Medicine, Middle East, Turkey and Africa, Boehringer Ingelheim, said “the pharmaceutical industry in MENA has been growing steadily along with the general uptrend within the region. It witnessed considerable progress over the years on the back of favorable demographic and economic factors, alongside strong government support for healthcare. The industry is expected to experience sustainable growth in the medium to long term. Increased domestic production, foreign investments, and consumption are likely to support the market’s evolution. Expansion of pharmaceutical sales in KSA, Egypt and Levant countries is projected to outpace the overall regional growth rate, thus translating into a higher market share of these countries at the regional level going forward. The remaining Gulf countries are forecast to maintain a stable share in their representation in the MENA pharmaceutical industry. The ultimate cause here is to ensure accessibility to medications for patients as well as government needs.“

Gihan Hamdy said “every year, millions of people die across the world, mostly in low-income developing countries, due to unavailability and inaccessibility to necessary medicines. According to WHO, 30 percent of the world population lacks access to life saving medicines. Considering the relatively high cost of health care and unavailability of medicines, the MENA region countries have to make some serious efforts to boost their pharmaceutical industry. An in depth knowledge of the current situation of the pharmaceutical industry outlining the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats as well as the impact of the pricing strategies on the access to medicines and health care reforms is an essential first step. This white paper presents an overview of the current situation in Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Lebanon and Algeria and provides recommendations to help attract additional investments, and improve the overall market growth in the MENA region.“

Review of the pricing and registration policies, especially with respect to imported drugs as the government price controls and higher penetration of generic drugs are anticipated to partially decrease the market growth rate in monetary terms. The paper outlined how regional governments need to work towards achieving a balance in protecting the interests of local manufacturers, foreign suppliers, distributors, retailers and the patients with the research demonstrating that markets across the region have become increasingly stifled.

The opportunity for political reform in the MENA region is unprecedented. However, structural political change cannot be dissociated from further economic reforms. The interdependent structural challenges faced by many countries—such as high unemployment, low female labor force participation rates, low levels of private sector development, weak public and corporate governance, bloated public sectors, limited competition, and pervasive corruption—will need to be addressed. Indeed, political reform cannot fully respond to citizens’ demands if it is not accompanied by better living standards which are reflected on the healthcare services that people gain. The current events provide an opportunity to develop a more transparent and effective economic governance to unleash the region’s economic potential.

The white paper said the government’s focus on healthcare is aimed at developing unparalleled healthcare infrastructure to ensure that adequate services are provided in the region. The government needs to overcome the following obstacles to achieve quality of healthcare:

• Restricted rules governing foreign ownership of companies that when relaxed, can serve to boost investment in the local manufacturing industry.

• Late detection and treatment of prevalent chronic diseases as well as lack of implementation of programs targeting specific populations or ages, and persons with special needs

• Nominal capacity building and in service training about insurance regulations, electronic transaction of claims (e-claims), and coding system

• The need for additional partnerships between healthcare private providers based on shared services, resources and equipment that will help improve the quality of healthcare in the country and patients’ access to advanced medical technologies.

• Minor Research and Development (R&D) activities in local pharmaceutical industry while in the same time, international pharmaceutical companies devote around 20 percent of their R&D pipeline to producing medication that address the needs of the poor and rare diseases.

• Slow regulatory systems and burdensome requirements leading to negative impact on patients and business climate.

There’s also a need for good clear governance and a well-defined health policies including better developed safety regulation system for generics.

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