CHALLENGE ACCEPTANCE

Mozambique 2016 | HEALTH & EDUCATION | FOCUS: PHARMACEUTICALS

The pharmaceutical industry in Mozambique faces serious challenges in terms of procurement, distribution, and storage, which equate to abundant opportunities for investment.

According to the 2016 CIA World Factbook, the median age in Mozambique is 17, which provides an insight into the age distribution in a country that has one of the lowest median ages in the world. In addition, life expectancy at birth is only 52.94 years. Access to healthcare and pharmaceuticals is not the only factor impacting the life expectancy of a specific country, though it is an important indicator. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 30% of the world's population is estimated to lack access to essential drugs. The country's pharmaceutical industry has been on the road to improvement but still has essential progress to make, especially when taking in account that as of 2009, the Ministry of Health estimated that three in four Mozambicans still seek traditional medicine before visiting an institutionalized healthcare facilities.

According to WHO data on the pharmaceutical situation in the SADC, as of 2009 there was only one domestic manufacturer of pharmaceuticals in Mozambique and six multinational pharmaceutical companies with a local subsidiary. This is likely due to the fact that there were no import duties for finished pharmaceutical products but for raw materials used to manufacture pharmaceutical products. As of 2009, only 3.52% of the population was covered under National Health Insurance (NHI) or Social Health Insurance (SHI).

In developing countries, high priced pharmaceuticals are often the reason for a lack of access to products. However, according to Adelino Leite, the Administrator of Medis Farmacêutica, Lda., the seemingly high prices are due to unequal profit margins. He told TBY that importers receive only a small margin of the profits, usually close to 15%, while pharmacies gain some 60% of profits. Local margins play a greater role in determining prices for pharmaceuticals than the real manufacturing price.

In the past, the government issued a compulsory license to Medis Farmacêutica for certain antiretroviral drugs used in treating HIV patients. This allowed more patients to access the drugs needed for their treatment, and royalties paid by Medis Farmacêutica, Lda. did not exceed 2% of sales. The UN estimates that some 1.5 million people are infected living with AIDS in the country, with around 10.6% of those aged 15-49 infected.
While the government had in the past placed its main focus on primary care, public sector changes have allowed for more hospitals and more services to be available throughout the country.

The pharmaceutical industry still faces serious challenges, especially in terms of procurement, logistics, and storage. There is urgent need for this problem to be addressed by the government and the private sector in collaboration with NGOs and donors. To alleviate the challenges of storage in the north of the country, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) recently awarded a tender to South African company Resolve Capacity for the design and construction of a 3,000sqm regional warehouse for pharmaceutical products in Nampula, for a value of $7.6 million.

Increasing the median age and life expectancy in Mozambique is not only a desirable and fair outcome of improved access to healthcare and medicine, but, ultimately, the most efficient way for pharmaceuticals to secure future demand and expansion in the long term.