London – Plans to strengthen Morocco’s pharmaceutical sector and boost value-added production took a key step forward, the global publishing, research and consultancy firm Oxford Business Group (OBG) said.
The government announced that it had signed a raft of agreements with local pharmaceutical associations, paving the way for the rollout of the country’s first pharma-clusters, or “ecosystems”, OBH added in a new report.
Under the agreements, Morocco plans to expand the manufacturing of both drugs and medical devices – part of a broader bid to galvanise industrial development in the kingdom via the Industrial Acceleration Plan, which aims to bring industry’s contribution to GDP from 14% to 23% by 2020 and create 500,000 new jobs, the source pointed out.
The government has earmarked a combined €40.6m in funding for the clusters, with specific segments – including medical devices, anti-cancer drugs and biosimilars, which are the generic versions of biotech drugs – targeted to receive the bulk of the incentives, OBG said, adding that the two ecosystems will be developed on seven hectares of land, with one cluster specialising in the production of medical devices and the other focused on drug manufacturing, including research and development activities.
To catalyse the development of new medications and products, the government has announced plans to accelerate the drug registration process and reduce the time taken to get marketing authorisation.
Additional financial support will also be offered to laboratories that source 60% of more of their inputs from local firms, helping to foster greater in-country value, the source said.
A sizeable domestic market, with national production already covering 65% of local demand, along with easy access to European and African markets has helped Morocco garner significant interest among key industry players, OBG added.
“Morocco is an attractive country for international pharmaceutical groups to establish productive units, especially small, specialised ones, given the country’s network of free trade agreements,” Khalid El Attaoui, country manager of Portuguese pharma company Tecnimede Groupe, told OBG.
Ralf Halbach, former director-general in North-west Africa of Swiss biotech firm Roche, said Morocco was well placed to leverage growing demand for specialised products that traditionally results from higher levels of GDP and per capita health care spending.
“Given growing competition from Indian companies in the generic drugs segment, commercialising specialised products with high value-added is likely to be the preferred growth strategy for multinationals operating in the Moroccan market,” he told OBG.
The government aims to boost pharma sector revenue by €1bn and create up to 5000 new jobs by 2020. According to OBG, this should see value added climb by €394.4m and generate a €713.9m trade surplus in the sector.
The strategy sees Morocco follow in the footsteps of some of the world’s largest economies, including the US, Russia, India and a handful of countries in Europe, where pharma-clusters are already helping to facilitate research and development and increase local production, OBG said.
Moulay Hafid Elalamy, minister of industry, was upbeat about Morocco’s prospects for developing the industry, pointing to the country’s advantages, which he said included an ability to manufacture to international standards, competitive production costs and proximity to major consumer markets.
Using equivalent prices in seven benchmark countries, including Spain, Turkey and Saudi Arabia, the Moroccan government lowered the cost of trademarked and generics drugs by as much as 30%, according to local media reports, the source pointed out, adding that the policy was aimed at improving access to drugs for Moroccan consumers, less than 65% of whom have medical coverage and are constrained by limited purchasing power.
“Reducing the cost of pharmaceutical products made them more widely available and accessible, thereby benefitting society,” Driss Chaoui, director-general of Afric-Phar, a local pharma lab, told OBG. “However, the reductions transferred margins from the Moroccan pharmaceutical industry to the distribution sector, restructuring the whole industry in a way that does not necessarily benefit Moroccan patients.”
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