SLOWLY BUT SURELY

Ecuador 2019 | HEALTH & EDUCATION | FOCUS: PHARMACEUTICALS

Ecuador imports almost USD1 billion worth of pharmaceuticals every year but the government is backing its long-term policy to change the formation of the sector through knowledge sharing and PPPs.

Health is a human right recognized by the constitution of Ecuador as of 2008, leading to changes in the national healthcare system, such as free and guaranteed availability of basic medical services for all citizens. Over time, this has resulted in Ecuador importing USD990.7 million worth of pharmaceuticals in 2017, but the government is taking measures to establish a domestic pharmaceutical industry to meet demands of an aging population.

Interestingly, Ecuador's healthcare system is on par with healthcare systems of developed countries; it has the highest number of pharmacies per capita in the region (one per 2,303 inhabitants). A total of 14,000 pharmaceutical products are registered by the regulatory agency, out of which 70% correspond to branded drugs and 30% generic drugs. On average, USD250-350 million are transacted annually in the public drug market, and 77% of the amount of public purchase of medicines is made through the government's centralized process. The public health system has 3,423 facilities through which medicines can be purchased, and in terms of volume, 70% of medicines is imported whereas the rest 30% is produced locally.

Supported by the government, local players are increasing efforts to bridge that gap. Laboratoios LIFE is one such company, and talking to TBY, its general manager Hector Enriquez C. shed some light on latest developments: “We have a research formulations group, and we continue to find new formulations, such as applied formulations, where we try to find the active ingredients and the right materials, bring them here, develop it, and handle its manufacturing and packaging."

The government is aware of the underlying structural problems at hand and has formed a policy to streamline the process of acquiring drugs and improve the domestic pharmaceutical industry. The end goal is to develop a domestic industry through knowledge sharing and PPPs to reduce imports and eliminate anti-competitive practices that prevent the sector from growing.