Pfizer’s relationship with the North African Kingdom of Morocco dates back 57 years, and the US pharma giant is the only major multinational with a manufacturing presence in the country. The firm recently strengthened its commitment to Morocco – a nation of 37 million people which boasts Africa’s only free trade agreement with the USA – with the signing of two memorandums of understanding with the Moroccan Ministry of Health. One MoU focuses on the looming health threat of antimicrobial resistance while the other concerns the rollout of universal healthcare, with hopes that greater levels of public-private partnership can foster better health outcomes for Moroccans.
“These agreements between governments and private organisations are essential to sustainable economic growth. They also bring diverse perspectives and strong sector expertise that align with and help realise local government visions and goals,” says Patrick van der Loo, Pfizer’s Regional President for the Middle East, Russia and Africa. “With these PPPs governments and businesses together can create a more equitable health ecosystem while at the same time strengthening the country’s economic landscape.”
Addressing the shortcomings of the Moroccan healthcare system, plagued with personnel shortages and access issues, has become one of the government’s top priorities in recent years. To this effect, Morocco launched a project to introduce universal healthcare and last year brought forward a draft proposal for healthcare reform, which has been endorsed with a USD 450 million loan from the World Bank.
Access means more than just price, but the regulatory pathway, the patient pathway, and collaboration with the government to make sure that patients, no matter where they live, have access to the same medicines
Pfizer is no stranger to Morocco, having set up operations there more than half a century ago and built a local manufacturing presence in 1985 that supplies the entire region. This is also not the first time the company has partnered with Moroccan authorities, a cooperation that carried through the COVID-19 pandemic when Pfizer provided millions of vaccine doses. “Pfizer is committed to supporting the Moroccan authorities and strengthening our partnership with local players to contribute to developing a favourable environment for the healthcare sector’s development,” said Ali Besri, Pfizer’s former general manager for Morocco in a 2020 PharmaBoardroom interview.
One of the new agreements between Pfizer and the Moroccan health ministry is focused on antimicrobial resistance (AMR) and the high prevalence of drug-resistant tuberculosis cases in support of the National Strategic Plan for the Prevention and Control of Antimicrobial Resistance. van der Loo outlines that the partnership specifically aims to strengthen the laboratory capacity for a national AMR surveillance system, improve awareness, strengthen the skills of healthcare professionals around AMR, and develop operational AMR research.
The other agreement is focused on supporting the delivery of universal health coverage. “We are committed to working very closely with the Ministry of Health to help achieve universal health coverage with a patient-centric approach,” claims van der Loo. To do this Pfizer has agreed to contribute to the improvement of the patient care pathway within the framework of universal health coverage, the strengthening of healthcare systems, and improving access to innovative medicines. “Access means more than just price, but the regulatory pathway, the patient pathway, and collaboration with the government to make sure that patients, no matter where they live, have access to the same medicines,” he adds. Pfizer already has four existing affordability and support programs in Morocco aimed at improving access.
According to van der Loo, Morocco has already made major strides to improving access, including stepping up its approvals process. “Local success drivers include the accelerated timelines for regulatory approvals in Morocco, indicating the governments’ commitment to improving access to innovative healthcare solutions.” He also recognises the need for ongoing collaboration with Moroccan authorities. “We recognize that access goes beyond pricing considerations. It involves collaborating with governments on regulatory timelines, implementing patient programs, and establishing pathways for patients to ensure responsible and controlled access to drugs and vaccines.”