Per capita consumption of medicines in Morocco is low, with annual spending per citizen hovering around Dh400-500 (€44-54) compared to €61 in Algeria and €98 globally. This gap is due in large part to the high cost of medicine compared to average incomes. Authorities have worked to broaden health insurance coverage, as well as to implement a price reduction policy for drugs. The latter, initiated in December 2013 and implemented in June 2014, has seen the prices on up to 800 medicines reduced – with encouraging implications for future consumption.
While the past year has been particularly challenging for the industry, a number of measures have been taken to improve the legal framework governing the sector. The kingdom produces around 400m boxes of medicine a year allowing it to meet up to 70% of domestic demand for medication, with 10% of the market accounted for by direct sales – or bulk orders purchased directly by pharmacies from pharmaceuticals firms.
However, cumbersome drug registration procedures and the lengthy process for the delivery of drug marketing authorisations have proved challenging for producers looking to expand domestic market access. Furthermore, additional measures could be taken to encourage foreign investment. “More flexibility to pay for services that are invoiced from other countries would be helpful for a multinational company with headquarters outside Morocco. It is very important for us to be able to perform these types of operations without too many complications, and in a fast and easy way, which is not the case right now,” Andres Monroy, managing director of chemical producer BASF, told OBG.
Reforms have been ongoing for the past eight years and a decree, which is currently under study, is expected to see the authorisation delivery duration reduced from its current two-year period down to 10 months. The issue gathered momentum in the summer of 2014 following consultations between sector operators and the Ministry of Health. However, an exact date as to when the decree could be finalised was unknown at the time of writing.
The review of legislation governing bioequivalence was also addressed recently, and should help stimulate the market for generic drugs, which currently comprise 33% of the market. Integral to this reform is a draft bill protecting participants of clinical trials presented to the Moroccan Parliament in January 2015. “The most important barriers to the development of the pharmaceuticals industry in Morocco are regulatory, notably legislation governing clinical trials and drug marketing authorisations, for instance,” Abdelmajid Belaiche, general director of the Moroccan Association of the Pharmaceuticals Industry, told OBG. Once legislation governing these areas is signed into law, centres for clinical trials, most notably bioequivalence tests, can be established legally. The market for generic drugs, which currently accounts for around a third of produced drugs in Morocco, will be a major benefactors of this development. These regulatory changes represent a significant opportunity to advance scientific research carried out locally and boost innovation.
Although exported pharmaceuticals goods have posted double-digit growth rates in recent years, rising by 21.7% in 2013 and totalling Dh909m (€98.9m), they only account for 8% of locally manufactured medicine. The industry was historically dominated by multinationals, with domestic players emerging in the 1980s and 1990s. Nonetheless, local players focused mainly on producing goods to supply the domestic market, affecting the pace at which the country developed exportable products. The government’s ambition to deepen South-South economic integration, however, has provided drug manufacturers with a push to broaden their activities in Africa. Moroccan firms such as Sothema and Cooper Pharma, for instance, have already made their first footsteps into the continent (see overview).