Interview: Amine Sekhri

How are health care authorities developing partnerships with private entities to develop a stronger and more competent sector?

AMINE SEKHRI: Algeria has a rather unique health care system in the region, supported by adequate health care policies that take into consideration the evolution of local epidemiology and the growing burden of non-communicable diseases. Recently, we have perceived with great satisfaction more openness from health care authorities towards various stakeholders, particularly the pharmaceutical industry. This was evident with the launch of several national plans, the signing of several memoranda of understanding and the implementation of a public-private partnership (PPP) framework. With respect to cancer, it is necessary to strengthen the national network of registries, producing more comprehensive and reliable local data.

There is also a clear willingness on the part of the government to develop a stronger pharmaceutical industry. Incentives already in place led to a substantial increase in commercial and industrial capacity, securing drug availability and reducing imports. These efforts should continue with the aim of further developing the pharmaceutical sector. One of the main considerations is to set up a framework that ensures predictability and visibility for companies, unleashing the sector’s potential, securing its sustainability and making it a key contributor to patients’ health.

In what ways can Algeria enhance its research and development (R&D) capacities?

SEKHRI: R&D in health care is valued not only from a scientific and medical perspective but also as an economic lever. R&D relies on political willingness, qualified human resources and infrastructure. Investments usually follow once these fundamentals are in place, some of which are already present in Algeria. Therefore, the country has the potential to become a regional centre of R&D. However, more focus must be made on strengthening the research governance model, as well as local competencies in different research areas. We need to continue investing in training and education initiatives, embedding the culture of research not only in Algerian academic and medical institutions but also in public and private companies. It is also important to connect these institutions, mutualising their resources and expertise, while also supporting research projects in line with health care priorities, such as cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. This can also be achieved using the PPP model.

As clinical research is one of the most regulated activities in the industry, it is critical that regulations are harmonised with international standards and implemented in an efficient manner, thereby removing unnecessary administrative barriers to starting clinical trials. This will enhance the standing of Algeria in clinical research programmes at a global level.

How would you assess prices and the regulation of competition within the pharmaceuticals market?

SEKHRI: Pricing of medicine is strongly debated, especially in the current economic environment. A recent mechanism implemented by the authorities, based on multiple countries’ benchmarks, led to drug prices in Algeria being among the lowest in the region, with many pharmaceutical companies reacting positively.

Regulations on pricing need to also take into consideration that access is a multi-dimensional challenge; decreasing prices or delaying registration has a limited impact over time considering an ageing population’s increasing health care needs. We may need to be more flexible with our pricing and regulations in order to offer more suitable access solutions. It is also vital that all stakeholders collaborate together to establish health care technology assessment mechanisms, with dedicated resources to ensure an objective and transparent value determination of innovations, thereby ensuring that patients are treated with up-to-date technologies.