Hot Topics in Moroccan Pharma

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In 2020, PharmaBoardroom has met with stakeholders from across the Moroccan healthcare and life sciences industries. These interviewees range from general managers overseeing several countries in the region from a base in Morocco to association heads and key opinion leaders from the worlds of academia and policymaking. Several recurring themes emerged from these meetings, most notably improving patient access to medications, greater interconnectivity with the rest of Africa, and the enduring importance of bolstering local manufacturing operations.

 

Access

Country managers from multinational pharma companies in Morocco highlighted that improving patient access to medicines is at the forefront of their strategies.

 

The informatization of the healthcare system is key to implementing creative access solutions

Sanaa Sayagh, Roche

 

Roche Morocco general manager Sanaa Sayagh suggests that technology and health data play a crucial role in access solutions: “The informatization of the healthcare system is key to implementing creative access solutions: we need to be able to gather anonymous health data to implement these new access solutions. Health authorities are aware of the need to upgrade the health IT infrastructure… While we could wait until the right IT infrastructure is in place, we could take a proactive approach to adapt ourselves to the existing environment and start with simple and compliant processes… We wish to strengthen our collaboration on health data to be able to create innovative access programs.”

The Association of the Pharmaceutical Industry (AMIP)’s executive director Layla Laassel Sentissi adds that introducing biosimilars to the local market is an important way to improve access for patients who need biological products, “There is better access to innovative biotechnological treatments through the introduction of biosimilars. The Sothema group has partnered with Russian biotechnology company BIOCAD to establish a biosimilars unit in Morocco for rituximab and bevacizumab.”

For Taher Hassan, general manager for Merck Morocco and Tunisia, research and development contributes to increased access to innovation in Morocco, “Our work on R&D, fostering local clinical research and discovery, is also relevant here. R&D and access go hand in hand. Two years ago, we held a very successful event on the potential of R&D in Morocco, which is simply huge. We have to connect with innovation and then also improve our R&D possibilities. That is a great lever of economic and scientific development in Morocco.”

 

 

Africa

Multinational and local pharma companies alike are increasingly seeing Morocco as a strategic hub for exporting further into Africa and gaining the trust of patients across the continent.

 

African countries are more open to collaboration with Moroccan companies as we share a common history and cultural ties.

Salim El Guernai, Galenica

 

Galenica, a Moroccan company specialising in generics, is led by CEO Salim El Guermai. He explains that the company’s success in expanding into other African nations is due to the company’s high quality standards and building trust: “Beyond Morocco, we have internationalized our operations and are now present in 22 countries through sales and marketing agencies, most of them in Sub-Saharan Africa, but also in Iraq, Libya, and Djibouti. Most recently, we became the first and only African company to be certified by Russian authorities… We differentiate ourselves with the reliable quality of drugs which complies with European standards, while many Indian and Chinese companies are facing quality issues. In general, made in Morocco drugs are trusted by African countries, and considered as good as European drugs. Moreover, African countries are more open to collaboration with Moroccan companies as we share a common history and cultural ties.”

Gynebio, a relatively new player in the market, is a Moroccan pharma company focused on women’s health. Its CEO Abdelhakim Tahri commented on the challenges still present in bringing medicines to the African market, “There are still challenges to overcome, yet, local African authorities are fostering investment and support industrial pharmaceutical companies in order to enable the access of medicine in Africa. Nonetheless, there is an overall slowness to bring medicine onto the market, it can take up to three years which is dramatically long. Authorities are working toward easing the process, to get rid of the current brakes that are slowing down African development, it will be possible through the adequate legislation will enable the access of new medicines onto the market and avoiding monopolies while guaranteeing quality and security.”

Though multinational Janssen has been present in Morocco for over 30 years, the affiliate recently decided to open an office dedicated to regulatory and access in order to expand its presence into Africa. Country manager Myriem Tamimy elaborated on the expansion, “As the entire group is focusing on innovation, thanks to a strong pipeline and commitment to provide access to innovative medicine to patients, it was decided in 2015 to open an office here in Morocco which would take care of regulatory registration of products and access to innovation, as well as the promotion of our total portfolio… Rapidly, Morocco moved to become the hub from where we cover and manage our Tunisian, sub-Saharan and more generally, French speaking African countries… Morocco acts as a role model for sub-Saharan Africa.”

AMIP executive director Layla Laassel Sentissi explains how Morocco’s historical positioning as a strategic gateway to Africa, combined with AMIP’s collaboration work with legislators in other nations is allowing Morocco to export more life-saving medicines into Africa: “On this point, we are asking the government to put in place legislation in order to allow companies to export products that are not commercialized in Morocco, which today is prohibited by law. In that way, Moroccan companies could play a role in helping other African countries fight against infectious diseases which have been eradicated or have never existed in Morocco. Moreover, it would attract investments from foreign companies that could use Morocco as an export hub for Africa.” 

 

 

Manufacturing

Multinationals are required to establish manufacturing facilities in Morocco in order to be officially recognised as pharmaceutical companies in the country. Country managers explain the importance of their local Morocco manufacturing operations.

Pfizer’s commitment to local manufacturing makes it easier for patients in Morocco and beyond to get the medicines they need more quickly, according to general manager for Morocco and the North Africa cluster Ali Besri. “We have a solid footprint in the country and have been present in Morocco for the last 55 years. Since 1985, we have accelerated access to medication through our local El Jadida manufacturing plant. Every year, we manufacture more than 12 million units to help meet the needs of our patients. More than 70 percent of our medicines are locally manufactured and exported to Tunisia and Sub-Saharan Africa with the highest international quality standards. We have invested almost [USD 25 million] into our manufacturing plant and we contribute to the growth of local talents by regularly training future industrial pharmacists through end-of-study internships in our plant. We are proud to be a key partner for the government, in alignment with the strategy to develop local manufacturing.”

Novartis has implemented a collaborative approach in manufacturing by sharing knowledge and pivoting to focus on local needs, says Saad Kanbris, head of the Morocco, Tunisia and Libya country group. “The footprint that Novartis has in Morocco was set years ago. As a matter of fact, the company has accompanied the development of the country and helped establishing local manufacturing via technology and knowledge transfers to our partners. While we produce less than we used to in Morocco, following a global divestment, we now focus on bringing innovation & increasing our manufacturing volumes. We also try and work on what the country needs today, and that for example includes clinical trials.”

Gynebio recently began local manufacturing operations for women’s health products. CEO Abdelhakim Tahri shared his vision for increased quality and certification, “In order to have the status of pharmaceutical company in Morocco, there must be a production manufacturing site. Thus in 2018, Gynebio Pharma opened a manufacturing plant that is 100 percent focused on the production of hormonal treatments for women (contraceptive pills, fertility products) as well as corticosteroides and oncology hormonal drugs. It is a high-end production site, a real innovation for Morocco and for the overall region. Our ambition is to ensure this production site is certified with international standards; we are currently starting to prepare the EMA certification, and then aim to have FDA certification.”

 

As a multinational company with local manufacturing, we enjoy a special position on the market.

Guillaume Recorbet, Servier

 

Servier is another multinational with strategic manufacturing operations in Morocco. General manager Guillaume Recorbet highlighted why this location is such an asset to the company: “As a multinational company with local manufacturing, we enjoy a special position on the market. Thanks to our historic presence and extensive footprint, we are considered as a very key partner for authorities. Our manufacturing site is an extremely strategic asset for Servier, which is why the Group has continually invested in its expansion. Covering an area of 13,000 square meters, the site opened in 2003 with an investment of about 5.7 million euros. Two years after, it was certified by the ANSM, the French regulatory agency for drug safety, enabling us to export to France. Since then, Servier has invested 8.5 million euros to progressively increase production capacity to 13 million packs currently. The site now produces more than 20 pharmaceutical specialties. Half of our production is intended for the Moroccan market, and half is exported to France and countries in West and Central Africa. Since 2006, we manufacture drugs for Biogaran, our generic brand, for the French market, and exports to the West and Central Africa region began in 2007.”

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