Morocco, one of the most significant pharmaceutical markets in Africa, boasts a number of domestic firms. Here we highlight eight of the most significant of these companies, the scope of their operation in Morocco and beyond Africa, and the partnerships they have struck with multinational firms.
Galenica was founded in 1978 to develop generic drugs for the Moroccan market and for export throughout Africa and the Middle East. Since its inception, Galenica has developed around 280 OTC and specialty drugs in the areas of gastroenterology, infectious diseases, metabolism, cardiovascular, diabetes and the central nervous system. The firm recently became the first African pharma company to be certified by Russian authorities.
When PharmaBoardroom spoke with CEO and head pharmacist Salim El Guermai on the success and the growth trajectory of the company, he highlighted that “Every day, 100,000 patients use our medicines. Our products are present in pharmacies as well as the public market through the tenders of the Ministry of Health. After focusing for a long time on acute illnesses, we are now much more engaged in the treatment of chronic conditions such as cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and CNS disorders. We have recently introduced generic versions of the newest treatments against hepatitis C which were extremely expensive but badly needed in Morocco as there is a high incidence of the disease.”
Afric-Phar, founded in 1966, was one of the first pharma companies to be created entirely by Moroccan pharmacists, in contrast with many other firms that were started by foreigners and later bought by Moroccans. Aside from its in-house production of generics, Afric-Phar represents multinational pharma companies such as Baxter, Hospira, Allergan and Ranbaxy through in-license agreements, distribution and partnerships. Its most recent partnership agreement was signed with Gilead for the distribution of products for Hepatitis B and C, HIV and fungal diseases.
Speaking about the new Gilead partnership in an interview with PharmaBoardroom, CEO Driss Chaoui commented, “Afric-Phar recognizes the importance of our complimentary strategic roles. We firmly believe in the value of these partnerships and the potential of the breakthrough innovations they lead. This is even more important in times of health crises like the COVID-19 pandemic we are currently enduring. Having a partner such as Gilead, whose experimental drug remdesivir may be the first effective coronavirus treatment, could bring the opportunity to offer the latest treatments to Moroccan patients.”
Iberma is a contract manufacturer for multinational pharma companies that focuses on three main therapeutic areas – urology, gastroenterology, and psychiatry. The company recently formed a joint venture with Italian pharma company Italfarmaco’s Spain affiliate to open a laboratory to develop products for women’s and children’s health.
Highlighting the firm’s geographic focus and intention, General Manager Karim Lahlou told Pharmaboardroom that “Iberma prides itself on being a Spanish-Moroccan entity that serves a sizeable market in Africa with a coherent geographic portfolio, which enables us to share key learnings and strategies with our African partners on how to stimulate growth opportunities. We have a strong presence in Senegal, Cameroun, Ivory Coast, and Mauritania, and we are adding two new markets this year. Even though Morocco continues to be the engine of our business, our steadfast intention is to continue developing our activities in other African countries, and we hope that this will represent 30 percent of our global revenue within 10 years.”
Polymedic was originally a manufacturing plant for Rhone Poulenc Rorer, Aventis and then Sanofi before becoming the current standalone company that it is today. The firm has had partnerships with multinationals such as LEO Pharma, Sanofi and Bayer, as well as launching its own generic products for chronic disease. It received an investment from Afric Invest in 2012, which allowed the company to penetrate international markets, expanding outside of Morocco.
Yassine Houbachi, Polymedic’s Business Development Manager weighed the pros and cons of expanding into the African market in an interview with PharmaBoardroom: “In terms of regional exports, the African market is complex. It has a promising future but also holds major ongoing challenges such as health security with logistic, economic, or even social constraints. Polymedic aims to be an actor in Africa’s development as it was in Morocco’s development.”
Bottu, initially starting out as a subsidiary of Bottu France, became an independent company that boasts market-leading drug Doliprane as its flagship product. Aside from Doliprane, Bottu has developed over 100 other products and has strong partnerships with over 20 multinational companies including Boehringer Ingelheim, Sanofi and Abbott.
Sothema, a Moroccan pharma manufacturing firm, has a portfolio of more than 300 products and is based on strong partnerships with over 35 prestigious international clients. The firm listed on the Casablanca Stock Exchange in 2005. Since January 2020 Sothema has been headed by Lamia Tazi, daughter of founder and former CEO Omar Tazi.
Cooper Pharma, another Moroccan pharma manufacturer, produces over 200 specialties, both its own products and through in-licensing partnerships with around 20 multinationals. Its main products fall within the categories of cardiovascular, contraception, dermatology, rheumatology, oncology and the central nervous system. Cooper exports its products throughout Africa and the Middle East.
Family-owned company Pharma 5 is composed of two companies, Pharma 5 and Pharmed. Its focus is on generic drug development and manufacturing as well as local distribution. With 1500 employees, Pharma 5 produces 800 million units per year and is counted as a top supplier of medicines to Moroccan hospitals.
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