Interview: Ayman Cheikh-Lahlou
How can bureaucratic processes for new drug authorisations be made more efficient?
AYMAN CHEIKH-LAHLOU: The fact that the implementation of quality-compliant, European-style standards and registration processes is putting pressure on local manufacturers and importers is quite normal. As a result, we have experienced some delays. Under the new decree, it is now possible to obtain approval for a new medicine within one year, provided one’s drug regulatory file is complete. Before that it was around three years due to a backlog of 2000 drugs at the Ministry of Health in between former and current procedures. This process can only be sped up if additional resources are allocated to the Ministry of Health.
How would you describe access to pharmaceutical products currently in Morocco?
CHEIKH-LAHLOU: Pharmaceutical access in Morocco is remarkable for two reasons. First, a local manufacturing policy, which dates back to the 1960s, has enabled us to be self-sufficient. In fact, 70% of medicine consumed in the country is now locally produced. This is the highest level in the region and is even higher than in some European countries, including France, which has a rate of 60%. This development was very well received, as local availability of drugs remains one of the biggest challenges in Africa. Access to medicines is also hampered by imports that can take time to reach the markets, when local manufacturing bases do not exist. The second factor is the excellent coverage of pharmacies. We have more than 10,000 pharmacies nationwide. It is the combination of these two factors that has enabled Morocco to be in a vanguard position for pharmaceutical products in the region.
In addition, the quality level of medicines in Morocco has been following European regulations for around 20 years and Morocco’s local health agency was accredited by the European Health Committee. Regarding manufacturing, on the other hand, the tiers are three-fold in Morocco. First, the subsidiaries of around 20 multinational corporations (MNCs) settled in Morocco in the 1960s and most of them have been operating ever since. Second, there are local players that act as licensed distributors of unlicensed MNCs, but also own manufacturing bases, developing generics. This reflects the dynamism of the market and its exports. Since 2012 we have seen the emergence of a third category: players from countries like India, Saudi Arabia or Egypt that bring in foreign direct investment. In many instances, Morocco has become a manufacturing base with access to Africa and the Middle East.
How can the transfer of pharmaceutical know-how and technologies be enhanced?
CHEIKH-LAHLOU: Morocco’s offer to African countries is to export and adapt its health care system, which goes beyond the pharmaceuticals industry. Other African countries want us to share our expertise with them, so transferring our pharmaceutical know-how will clearly put us in a win-win situation. However, to be successful as a pharmaceuticals company in Africa, we need to further develop the health care side of things. This requires an optimisation of Morocco’s health care model first. The model is not bad, but we definitely have to improve our public hospital situation, which remains the sector’s top priority.
With the private sector consistently adding value and delivering solutions out of necessity, public-private partnerships (PPPs) in the health care sector have become the path to success in this regard. However, with these PPPs comprising pharmaceuticals companies, wholesalers, pharmacists, doctors and others, it is clear that corporatism still persists in different segments of the health care system’s value chain. In a fashion similar to that of M-Pesa transactions, which are in favour among Kenyan farmers, Morocco needs to have a technological disruption in the health segment that works in favour of the public’s best interests.
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