Morocco – A growing pharma sector keen to export

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In the past, the Moroccan pharmaceutical sector primarily served local needs. Now it is ramping up its research and development capabilities, looking outwards to global markets, developing partnerships with other African countries, and beginning to think about social programs such as public access to healthcare.

“[Morocco’s] success grew from a framework where Pharma companies needed to produce locally, which led to industrial investments in Morocco.” That is how Mohamed Houbachi, president of both Polymédic, a local producer, and AMMG, the Moroccan generics association explains the origins of Morocco’s success. “This was a tremendous force in the development of the sector.”

“The infrastructure is there, and this is what has made the country successful: I have personally received representatives from other countries, who were amazed with what we managed to put in place in the country.” – Abdelilah Lahlou, general manager of Iberma

But then the business model changed. “Instead of working on 100 percent local production, companies that wanted to enter the market in Morocco would launch their own products under license with local laboratories,” Houbachi explains. This business model is still widely in place to this day. “Local pharma companies were only seen as providers for the local market, and not as a sector that could export and that therefore deserved to be developed.”

“We find the following characteristics: an industry of small batches, heavily dependent on imports of APIs, with high manufacturing costs and limited economies of scale. With a situation like this, one might have doubted the future of our pharmaceutical industry, but no such thing happened for the manufacturers, who never lost confidence and faith in their industry,” adds Abdelilah Lahlou, general manager of Iberma. “The infrastructure is there, and this is what has made the country successful: I have personally received representatives from other countries, who were amazed with what we managed to put in place in the country,” he enthuses. “Bad days seem to be over and Morocco has found a dynamic for the development of its pharmaceutical industry which will take it further.”

Morocco has clear ambitions: with a strong focus from King Mohammed VI on forging partnerships with other African countries, the country is keen to develop its pharma industrial base and export capabilities. Minister of Industry Moulay Hafid Elalamy has included pharmaceuticals in the list of “ecosystems” which will boost the Moroccan economy according to the Ministry’s Industrial Acceleration Plan.

Morocco has clear ambitions: with a strong focus from King Mohammed VI, the country is keen to develop its pharma industrial base and export capabilities.

The Moroccan market is also changing: the outcome of the 2011 Moroccan Arab Spring was very different from those of its neighbors. A referendum was held, which led to a new Moroccan constitution making access to healthcare a constitutional right. In April 2012, King Mohammed VI officially launched the Medical Assistance Plan (Regime d’Assistance Medicale – RAMED) across all regions of the country, with the aim of improving access to healthcare for the poorest segments of the population.

Although universal healthcare coverage is still a long way off, RAMED now covers eight million Moroccans, with over 50 percent of the population covered by some form of social security in 2013.

“The social and political transformations experienced by Morocco and other Arab countries have helped raise our awareness, and changed our approach,” explains Morocco’s minister of health, El Houssaine Louardi, voted the country’s most popular minister in January 2015.The government has put together a health sector strategy to take the country through to 2016, of which RAMED is a key component. “To overcome Morocco’s health challenges, we must have mandatory, universal coverage, so that people can access care without having to pay up front,” he explains.

Click here to read more articles and interviews from Morocco, and to download the latest free pharma report on the country. 

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