European Business Magazine talks to Lamia Tazi, Secretary General of the Moroccan association of Pharma, about the Moroccan pharmaceutical industry, the impact of COVID-19, the new federation FMIP and accessibility to medicines.
Ebm-The Moroccan pharmaceutical industry went from 80% of the local market in the late 90s to less than 60% now. What, in your opinion, are the main factors that hinder the sustainable growth of this sector and what actions are needed to help boost and develop it?
During the period to which you refer, there has been a regression in the share of manufactured drugs compared to those imported. In 2013, this phenomenon was particularly exacerbated after the price decree came into force. The latter clearly favours the imported drug by granting it an additional margin of 10%. The domestic pharmaceutical industry has posed this problem to the government. When addressing the development of the Moroccan pharmaceutical sector, several parameters must be evaluated. The Moroccan pharmaceutical industry has experienced continuous growth for more than three decades, sometimes in double digits. In 2019, the turnover amounted to 1.5 billion Euros, representing 5% of the national industrial GDP. The sector provides some 50,000 jobs in 49 pharmaceutical companies. Despite the current crisis of COVID-19, these jobs have been preserved, as well as the second position of our pharmaceutical industry in Africa, behind that of South Africa. In terms of investments, the Moroccan pharmaceutical sector mobilizes significant budgets annually, both for the opening of new production units and for the maintenance and renovation of existing ones. These investments have enabled our industry to position itself in the therapeutic areas of the future such as biotherapies, which is sought-after by pharmaceutical players.
Today, more than ever, local production must be supported in order to ensure health autonomy. This must be done through a shortening of the product registration deadline, the establishment of a fast track for the essential and/or innovative products, the national preference for manufactured products, the extension of social security coverage and finally support for exports.
Ebm-Morocco stands to benefit as European firms, hurt by COVID-19, look to shorten their supply chains, reduce their overreliance on China and bring manufacturing closer to home. The country could become the best platform south of the Mediterranean to build a prosperity hub based on co-investment between the north and the south. Can you elaborate on the opportunities that exist here? Can you tell European Business Magazine readers about Morocco’s strengths in the global value chain? Where do the weaknesses exist, and how can they be handled?
Morocco is well positioned to be the ideal partner of the old continent especially in industrial sectors with high added value such as the pharmaceutical industry. Thanks to its political stability, its geographical proximity to Europe and above all to the quality of its medicine production recognized European quality. Indeed, the COVID-19 pandemic has shown a great dependence of Europe towards Asian countries in terms of the pharmaceutical industry, whether for finished products or API (Active Pharmaceutical ingredients). I believe that this pandemic represents an opportunity for both Europe and Morocco to put into practice a policy of co-location and co-investment advocated in recent years by several European officials. This policy can take the form of pharmaceutical joint ventures whose production could be intended for both Europe and Africa. Morocco has several assets to make such cooperation effective. In terms of quality, Moroccan drugs are produced and registered in accordance with European regulations. In terms of human resources, Morocco has the skills at all levels, including a new generation of researchers and innovators, capable of making these pharmaceutical projects a success. In terms of logistics, Morocco has developed advanced and quality infrastructure in terms of highway, rail, port and airport networks. Morocco’s financial sector, thanks to its African roots, also offers several advantages to investors. In terms of economic policies, the industrial and technological cities created particularly in the north of the country offer a range of advantages and facilities for the establishment of leading Euro-Moroccan pharmaceutical units. Furthermore, Morocco’s commitment to the production of renewable energies represents a guarantee of compliance with international environmental standards for European partners.
Ebm-The new federation, the Moroccan Federation of the Pharmaceutical Industry (FMIP), aims to unite pharmaceutical operators in Morocco and strengthen the national industrial fabric. What benefits will FMIP bring, and how will it support the Moroccan pharmaceutical sector on the international stage?
The members of the Moroccan Association of the Pharmaceutical Industry (AMIP) unanimously agreed about the creation of the Moroccan Federation of the Pharmaceutical Industry (FMIP) at the end of the Ordinary General Assembly of the association held on Tuesday, September 29th. This new federation aims to bring together all the pharmaceutical players in Morocco to strengthen the pharmaceutical industrialization. Whether its generic or multinationals operating in Morocco via industrial sites, we all have a single goal which is to ensure Morocco’s autonomy in the manufacture of drugs, and a quality and accessible product for the consumer. FMIP is created to support the various development initiatives of the sector, especially in terms of industrial tools, Research and Development or innovation.
EBM-In your opinion, what are the legal and technical constraints to overcome in order to promote and encourage a stronger national pharmaceutical industry? And what methods do you advise to create an adequate framework for this field of activity?
From a legal perspective, the last two decades have seen several law reforms governing the pharmaceutical sector; some of these reforms are positive and some are not. The entry into force of Law 17.04, the Pharmacy and Medicines Code, for example, has made it possible to open up the capital of pharmaceutical companies to national or foreign investors other than pharmacists. This is a major step forward and this legal framework can play a positive role in the Euro-Moroccan cooperation I mentioned earlier. However, there are certainly challenges to be met at the regulatory level. One of these challenges is the long process of granting Marketing Authorizations (MA) for new pharmaceutical specialties. I think that France’s response to the impact of COVID-19 on its drug industry can serve as a model in this field. As a matter of fact, one of the key measures recently taken by the French authorities to boost the French pharmaceutical industry is precisely to facilitate the registration formalities for new drugs and to shorten the time to obtain the MA.
Ebm-What impact has the COVID-19 crisis had on the Moroccan pharmaceutical industry, and what opportunities have come about directly because of the pandemic? Did the crisis directly impact the sector’s international development strategy, particularly in Africa?
The COVID-19 pandemic has been a rich learning experience for the pharmaceutical sector. It was necessary to react quickly through the activation of business continuity plans that respond both to the country’s needs for drugs – especially those included in the COVID treatment protocol – and to the imperatives of preventing contamination within the production units. There was huge pressure on the industrial teams, who have doubled their creativity to maintain the delivery of medicines on time, along with safeguarding the health of employees and avoiding the formation of contamination clusters. In terms of medical promotion, containment simply stopped medical representatives from visiting doctors and organizing scientific events. This was an opportunity for our teams to imagine other forms of communication. In that respect, thanks to digital technology, we were able to maintain our medical and pharmaceutical information efforts through the organization of virtual congresses and webinar trainings. In brief, I think that the pandemic has had the merit of pushing pharmaceutical players to make major transformations in their operations. This will positively impact the future of the sector.
Ebm-How would you qualify accessibility of medicines and the system of health insurance in Morocco? Is it possible to ensure the adequacy between the price of medicines, the level of citizens’ income, accessibility to innovation and R&D and the capacity of the AMO?
I believe that the project of generalization of social security coverage recently announced by His Majesty the King, will resolve this question of accessibility to medicines. The will to solve this problem by focusing on the sole parameter of prices and margins of medicines has proved to be fruitless, because the consumption of medicines per capita has not changed despite all the price cuts announced in recent years by the government. We have the weakest per capita drug consumption in the Maghreb region. It is only 35 Euros per inhabitant per year. This low consumption is essentially due to the fact that in Morocco two thirds of the population do not have reliable social security coverage. Consequently, the project of generalization of social security should contribute to better accessibility to medicines for citizens, as well as promoting the development of the national pharmaceutical sector.