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An all encompassing market access strategy in Africa?

09 September 2015 Mark Hollis

When designing market access strategies it can be all to easy for pharmaceutical companies to do so on a generalised, regional basis…one strategy for Middle East…one for the Latin America…and so on. When it comes to Africa, however, should pharma companies use an all encompassing strategy? Is it even possible? Well, although all together the region marks a comparatively small (but very fast-growing) market, it is incredibly diverse, making an all-encompassing strategy difficult. Conversely, however, having 54 separate market access strategies does not seem efficient given the aforementioned market size.

From what we have seen so far, companies are not treating the African market in geographical terms, but rather economic terms. Broadly speaking the region is a story of two halves: within Africa's many large cities there exist a large number of wealthy patients with a strong preference for western brands and a non-communicable disease profile similar to European populations. On the other side of the market is rural populations who may have limited resources to afford novel drugs and who have a greater risk of communicable diseases. The pharma industry, in the meantime, has historically been focusing on access strategies for these communicable diseases - but increasingly, pharma companies are trying to carve out a market in Africa for non-communicable diseases.

Some companies have sought to reach out to the region's small but growing middle classes with price discounts and a 'large volume low price model'. This can be troublesome as in countries with high rates of counterfeit medicines patients may question the authenticity of drugs priced at a discount. And the risk of parallel trade remains.

Countries' governments within the region are acutely aware that their citizens may be missing out on access to some of the newest medicines due to companies' concerns that the cost of gaining market approval may not be met by the market size. To alleviate the industry's concerns, governments in the region are increasingly working together to harmonize regulatory approvals. This is happening on a regional basis alongside existing economic union lines. The issue of sovereignty remains a contentious issue when granting final approval for drugs so rather than overarching approval authorities (along the lines of the European Medicines Agency, EMA) the policy may evolve into common submission guidelines in the short term. Ultimately many in the region are seeking an eventual pan-regional regulatory agency, which would make obtaining market approval easier, at least.

We will be attending the forthcoming PharmaAfrica Market Access Conference which will examine many of the issues for pharmaceutical companies seeking to access the African market. The conference will be held on 24-25 September 2015 in London. We look forward to continuing the conversation with you there.

Mark Hollis is a Life Sciences Analyst for IHS
Posted 9 September 2015



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