Tunisia: Diabetes on the Rise

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Diabetes is an important problem in Tunisia, with prevalence is expected to increase over the coming years. Jean-Francois Courtet, general manager of Novo Nordisk in Tunisia, points out rgar “diabetes is the second largest cause of death in Tunisia”. Moez Lindhallah Mokadem, director of Pharmacie Centrale de Tunisie (PCT), adds that non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, “are weighing more in the total balance [of the PCT]”.

““Demand in categories such as cardiovascular and diabetes is expected to explode.””

Chokri Jerebi, Sanofi

Over one million Tunisians are estimated to live with diabetes and forecasts from the Tunisian Congress of Endocrinology show that this figure is set to double in the next ten years. As Sanofi Tunisia’s general director, Chokri Jerebi, puts it, “Demand in categories such as cardiovascular and diabetes is expected to explode.”

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Unfortunately, diabetes seems to be following a rule of halves in Tunisia, whereby only around half of the population living with diabetes knows about it and only half of these achieve treatment targets. All in all, less than one percent of the population living with diabetes achieves the desired outcomes from receiving treatment according to figures presented during the Tunisian Congress of Endocrinology. In light of these unsatisfactory figures, public and private initiatives to raise awareness and tackle the increasing prevalence of the disease have been organized. The government has battled for the reduction of salt compounds in bread across the country and companies such as Sanofi and Novo Nordisk are actively involved in awareness, prevention, and patient support campaigns.

The Rule of Halves in Tunisia

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The current prevalence of diabetes and its expected increase is whetting the appetite of players with products in these therapeutic areas. While some such as Servier and Novo Nordisk are already well established in the market and continue launching innovations regularly, others are looking forward to catching up on the aforementioned players. MédiS’ founder and CEO, Lasaâd Boujbel explained it “appears necessary to reinforce [the company’s] presence in the diabetes field.” and Alya El Hedda, general manager of Opalia-Recordati commented on the matter explaining the diabetes segment “offers the best growth prospects for a company like [theirs].”

Capitalizing on the prospectiveness of the diabetes segment in Tunisia will very much depend on the ability of players to navigate regulatory inefficiencies until these are resolved. Indeed, short-term financial obligations and currency devaluations hinder the ability of companies willing to tap into the diabetes market to do so. Novo Nordisk’s Courtet regrets the government’s obliviousness to the long-term economic burden a disease such as diabetes represents. By ignoring innovative solutions that could fix the diabetes issue in Tunisia, and by prioritizing low cost treatments the government might lose wider economic development opportunities. Indeed, Tunisia’s large patient base, its geostrategic location, low manufacturing costs, and well-trained labor could attract companies for clinical research purposes if the government recognized the value of innovative products brought to the Tunisian market. As a result some companies have chosen not to bring all forms of their diabetic treatments to the market, which in turn affects the quality of life of diabetic Tunisian patients.

Writer: Alan Le Roux

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