Interview: Amine Benabderrazik

What steps could be taken to successfully boost local production of pharmaceuticals?

AMINE BENABDERRAZIK: Around 80% of medicines – both originals or generics – commercialised today in the Moroccan private market are manufactured locally. This is one of the highest local manufacturing rates in the region, and makes Morocco a good model for countries that want to further develop their local production of medicines. For every 10 locally manufactured products, six are original formulas, which is testament to the success of the 50 years of collaboration between multinational and local companies, specifically in terms of technology, and transfer of knowledge and know-how.

Further growth of the market, for local production as well as innovative treatments, requires the fundamental prerequisite of expanding and improving universal health coverage, the biggest challenge today in Morocco. While local manufacturing remains an important aspect in boosting the national pharmaceutical industry, ensuring patient access and product availability are much more critical for our patients and overall health care system. Currently, less than 40% of Moroccans are covered by the compulsory health insurance scheme, and there is an urgent need to find the appropriate way to expand access to all citizens for all types of medication, not only those that are essential.

In what ways can health coverage be increased?

BENABDERRAZIK: The wider availability of generics has not effectively increased coverage or access. About 40% of the private market and more than 90% of the public market are made of generics. Having cheaper medicines does not necessarily correlate with improved access for patients.

Morocco needs to find tangible and innovative ways to expand access to health care, and it can do this by introducing telemedicine; reinforcing the use of digital and health-related applications to help bridge geographic disparities; and, most importantly, by further expanding the list of reimbursed products and innovative treatments, giving patients access to effective treatment options. Public-private partnerships are one model that can be used to successfully implement these initiatives.

Going forward, how important is it for the kingdom to invest in biopharmaceuticals?

BENABDERRAZIK: Since 1970 multinational pharmaceutical companies have contributed to the development of Morocco’s pharmaceutical industry. Today it is becoming crucial to strengthen our capabilities in terms of clinical and biomedical research to subsequently attract further investments in biotechnology. This is one of our utmost priorities, and is why we are working closely with Moroccan government to create the legal and competitive framework that would allow the kingdom to fulfil such ambitions. The African market is showing significant growth opportunities, even if it still accounts today for only 1-2% of the global pharmaceuticals market. We must remain consistent with our local ambitions.

In order for Morocco to gain recognition throughout the African continent in terms of clinical research and biotechnology, public and private players in the market need to work together in finding common solutions and establishing an effective strategy to create value-added products in the years to come. On the other hand, intellectual property must also be considered when talking about biotechnology. The framework in Morocco currently covers only marketed medications, thus further regulations are required to ensure that intellectual property protection is fully respected. This will guarantee protection for foreign investors either in biotechnology or in clinical research, and will pave the way for better access to health care and innovation in the kingdom.