Pharmaceuticals is one of Algeria’s most dynamic manufacturing industries. The state-owned SAIDAL group is the main producer, and there were approximately 80 other local and foreign manufacturers operating in the segment in 2018.
Following the 2009 imposition of restrictions on the import of goods that can be produced locally, national output has grown rapidly, leading to rising levels of self-sufficiency. The market is currently the largest in Africa with an estimated value of $3.7bn. Factors such as an expanding middle class and growing population, which is covered by the public health system, has increased demand for pharmaceuticals and presents long-term investment opportunities.
According to a brochure produced for the Maghreb Pharma Expo, in 2018 around 47% of domestic pharmaceuticals demand in Algeria was supplied locally compared to 25% in 2008. With the government aiming to increase this to 70% by 2021, the sector is drawing more and more interest from among local and foreign investors.
According to official figures there were more than 110 projects to construct or expand pharmaceuticals facilities in 2018. Among them, a €20m oncological manufacturing plant in Sidi Abdellah, Algeria’s pharmaceuticals and biotech cluster. Carried out by French firm Ipsen and Algeria’s Isly Holding, the project was announced in early September 2018 and is pegged for completion in 2021. The facility will manufacture medicines for the domestic market in its first phase and for export in its second.
The following month the country also became home to the largest drug production and distribution facility on the continent, with the inauguration of the Sanofi Algérie complex, also located in Sidi Abdellah. At full capacity, the plant is expected to produce approximately 100m units per year, and its portfolio will cover a wide range of medicines in cardiology, neurology, diabetes and pain management.
Other notable projects include a partnership between Biopharm and UK-Swedish multinational AstraZeneca, formed in mid-2018, for a $125m facility dedicated to the production of cardiovascular, neurological and oncological medicines, and an agreement between French group Pierre Fabre Laboratories and a number of local firms for a €15m drugs manufacturing facility.
The new projects dovetail with the government’s National Anti-Cancer Plan 2015-19, which aims to expand oncology infrastructure and promote training in cancer treatment, while also reducing risk through preventative campaigns. The plan is a response to the increasing prevalence in Algeria of cancer, linked to increased urbanisation and changing consumer lifestyles. Each incidence of cancer costs the state AD5m (€36,300) on average, according to official figures, and the cost of cancer medication accounts for approximately 60% of total expenditure at public pharmacies.
As part of efforts to address the disease, four new publicly owned cancer-treatment facilities are expected to open in Algeria by the end of 2018, adding to the 13 already established. The centres will be equipped with 12 new radiotherapy accelerators, bringing the total number up to 48, 10 of which are operated by the private sector.
Notwithstanding the sizeable investments, pharmaceuticals demand is still not entirely covered by local production. Imports of medicines increased by 37% year-on-year in the first five months of 2018 to $922m, although this figure is still significantly under the $2.02bn recorded in 2016. According to local press reports the situation is due to a tendency among companies to produce the same type of products, focusing mainly on syrups or antibiotics, and underinvesting in research and development of drugs to treat other non-communicable diseases, such as heart disease and diabetes.
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