The pharmaceutical industry is one of the European Union’s highest performing Technology sectors, with it consistently driving and advancing medical achievements. Through research, development and new medical breakthroughs, pharma has become such a key asset of the EU creating an estimated value of 220 billion Euros.
However, this market has been severely hit by the austerity measures that the union has sought to employ since 2010, causing inabilities to further invest in national or continental research at a time when competition is growing from further developing nations such as Brazil, China and India. In fact, migration to these countries is happening as their markets show an 11% growth rate versus the 5% EU average, with Europe now only accounting for 17.7% of all new medical discoveries being brought to market.
Covid 19 has proven to be the biggest challenge to the already struggling industry, so with the consequences of the outbreak, the reaction is crucial to ensure a constant supply of adequate pharmaceutical treatments are available to European citizens.
In terms of response, Italy and France have been seen as the leading countries taking the quickest moves to react to the situation, with their health systems almost immediately taking current medications on the market for conditions that they felt had a similar molecular structure such as HIV, Malaria and other anti-viral drugs and testing their effectiveness. France pioneered this through the use of a trial on the drug Hydroxychloroquine that passed various studies and was subsequently praised as a treatment by American president Donald Trump.
Other drug treatments involved the same protocol, only in different samples with the World Health Organisation choosing to conduct their own personal testing in Norway.
The United Kingdom eventually led the way in trials with the strong research and development facilities nationwide, including a partnership with pharmaceutical giant Astra Zeneca and Oxford University which among others was assisted by the poor governmental response to the initial outbreak meaning a strong volunteer response. In June, the world’s first recognised coronavirus treatment was approved by both the National Health Service and the British government through the use of Dexamethasone, which was believed to dispel the effectiveness of the Hydroxychloroquine usage.
Europe’s eventual strong response allowed it to amass an extensive list of countries such as France who were able to provide a quick logistical supply of treatment to afflicted citizens. Germany was ranked number one globally for treatment effectiveness due to its strong health care system that relied on regional transportation and administering policy whilst refusing to allow any medical equipment that may be of use from leaving its borders. More surprising countries also proved very effective in their methods, with Iceland having been already prepared for the eventual influx with testing, drugs and quarantine set up before they even had confirmed cases and Turkey providing strict yet efficient lockdown protocol for at risk groups such as over 65’s and under 20’s, alongside extensive availability of Hydroxychloroquine as a front-line treatment and Japanese drug Favipiravir as a secondary
There were also some worrying logistical issues in terms of actually achieving supplies of drugs, due to the way in which they are created. The European Commission discovered that 70-80% of all treatments were actually made using active substances flown in from China, showing a lack of raw availability surrounding the attainment of treatments with a need for a closer and more Eurocentric option. This need means that they are also more reliant on a newer supplier of product- Morocco.
Morocco’s pharmaceutical industry did not exist till just after 1956 following its independence, however leader King Mohammed V dictated that in order to sell within Morocco, major companies had to also have a production base in the country which led to a slowly developing new infrastructure where technical ability and scientific knowledge began to exist, turning the country into a modern-day leader in Africa’s continental pharma market.
With the drug supply having been disrupted due to Covid 19, a shortage has occurred as China has suffered great numbers of factory closures and the UK, India and Canada among many others has sought to put restrictions on further treatment sales to ensure their own self interests. The consequence of this is that Europe recognises its need for a regional supply that is much more accessible and in line with their own regulatory policies, something which carries great precedence going forward as the continent looks to deal with both the current pandemic and the aftermath that will occur. As such, the supply chains are affected, and this leads to the need of acceleration of near shoring to provide easier access that takes less of a focus on Asian supply.
The location of Morocco makes it the perfect hub as a supply base for both Europe and Africa with it being centrally located on the tip of one whilst only miles from the other. The nations stable economy and recent investment also allow it to possess a modern transport system across land, air and sea, with its current trading deals in Europe making its routes of Covid supply provision already well established for its market. One of the more crucial elements is the high supply that is locally produced so that there is no reliance on other suppliers or any need to source from China. This creates the opportunity to be able to consistently produce treatment supplies at the low costs usually associated with African trade, whilst unilaterally using its strong relationships across both continents to grow and develop its exports.
This is in no small part driven by the political environment, as the trade tensions are evident globally and whilst currently having no choice but to do business with China, Europe especially will take advantage of the EU’s 750 million Euro recovery package aimed at focusing on new, reliable supply and invest that into a country such as Morocco, whose need is only strengthened by its position as a traditional gateway to further investment in Africa as well as the US and EU free trade deals which are only becoming more comprehensive as a result of its modern and unbiased position.
Egypt also stands to benefit as an alternative, having also been effective in providing strong and lasting trade of current Corona virus treatments and supplies with a strong economy and global network of imports and exports.
Despite this, Europe is not taking the best advantage of Morocco’s ability, with only Spain seeing Morocco as a strong and consistent trade partner in most of its needs. This is in part, as a result of its trade partnership with over a third of Spanish trade being linked to the nation, however in the current climate only France has reached out and secured a link for the provision of PPE, with other nations not recognising the contribution that is still to be made from the pharmaceutical environment that exists within the African nation. This kind of relationship could develop in need due to the currently predicted second outbreak of the virus which could then see Morocco’s demand become so high that many of the European nations are not able to get the treatments they need.
The existence of such a successful pharmaceutical industry shows how Europe will continue to be at the forefront of medical research and development, especially in times of crisis such as these, despite the challenges it might face. The ability to continue to supply public led health response such as the German world leading reaction and the treatment and newly announced vaccine breakthrough in Britain is evidence of this, however it needs greater and more accessible supply which is now abundantly available in Morocco. Such speed, quality and education is paramount to the ability of the pharma industry to sustain itself, and should it take full advantage of its more accessible links then should only improve its response to the ongoing pandemic.