Imagine living in a country where cancer patients are forced to walk with their coolers in hand, from pharmacy to pharmacy and sometimes from town to town to get the necessary drugs for their chemotherapy. A country where patients face life-threatening drug shortages, a country where treatment becomes a real obstacle course, and where doctors are forced to juggle prescriptions in the hope that their patients can find the drug without difficulty. which relieves them, sometimes advises them to have it brought from abroad. This country is Tunisia and we are at 21th century…
Usually a reference in the region in terms of industry and pharmaceutical policy, Tunisia is today unable to treat its patients and unable to retain its precious investors who bring innovations. It is now official, the international pharmaceutical laboratories Bayer, GSK and its subsidiary Novartis are leaving Tunisian territory, Pfizer’s departure would only be a matter of time. These announced, predictable and regrettable departures definitely sound like the death knell of a glorious era and a bygone era.
The president of the union of private pharmacists, Naoufel Amira, confirmed that a few days ago, three international laboratories Bayer, GSK and Novartis have decided to leave Tunisian territory. A departure which the manager regrets, but which only he can understand.
” We are talking about companies that have invested in our country and have been active there for decades. For all new diseases, it is they who do the research and bring us the drugs. It is on this basis that our laboratories manufacture generics, and therefore they are the ones who build the market. In short, there was room for everyone. We regret these departures, and we hope that the Ministry of Health will work to try to retain those who remain “said Naoufel Amira during an intervention on the subject.
He then explained that four basic reasons caused these laboratories to leave. ” First, the fact that Tunisia is no longer the preferred destination for drug registration as it was before. She was a reference and the Tunisian administration even took responsibility for the registration of medicines to North Africa and even some African countries, today these countries have their own agencies, have organized themselves and we have stayed on the train “, specified the person in charge.
” We also have unacceptable delays in drug registration. The system has developed around the world, today there is recognition between the countries regarding the registration of medicinal products. In Tunisia we still want to do everything on our own when we have neither the means nor the time. Sometimes it takes years to grant permits when other countries have already approved the drug, it is not consistent and it hampers the work of laboratories “, He continued.
The deficit of the social funds also played, the central pharmacy sinks under the debt and the innovative drugs which are the added value of these laboratories are expensive and make the PCT, which is already in crisis, unable to honor its quotas.
” In Tunisia, we have preserved the system from the 1960s with regard to medicine prices. It is the Ministry of Commerce that sets the prices, although it does not know anything about the value of the substances. Therefore, we recommended the creation of a joint price committee, which brings together the parties concerned with a view to introducing a new price policy. We know the diagnosis, it has been worked out and alarmed for years, but it is time to move to change things. added Mr. Amira.
These departures will, as stakeholders in the sector remind us, cost the country 80 top management jobs, in addition to above all harming the citizen, who will no longer have access in his country to innovative medicines, which he now has to obtain at home ‘alien.
” New innovative drug systems have appeared in recent years, these drugs treat specific diseases and provide great comfort to the patient. We are talking about drugs intended to treat chronic diseases, cancer, but which are subject to such cumbersome procedures in Tunisia that they drag on and end up tiring the laboratories. The environment here is characterized by fear, no manager wants to take the slightest risk, we want all guarantees except that the investors are not waiting. The Tunisians who worked in these laboratories did everything to defend their country, but failed to keep the laboratories, which were tired and whose work is hampered by a bureaucracy that dates back to the 1960s. Naoufel Amira pointed out.
In fact, pharmaceutical laws in Tunisia date back to the 1970s, and investors are discouraged by legal loopholes in laws that come from a different era and no longer respond to the reality of the world.
” We made an effort for the vaccine against Covid-19, the permit was issued in two months, it proves that we can when we want. With these departures, we lose laboratories, jobs, innovative medicines, but also the training of our doctors and our pharmacists, to which these laboratories have allocated budgets. If a drug is approved in the US and in Europe, why should it take four years to be approved in Tunisia, on what logic is it based? This must stop, a drug agency must be created like in other countries, the PCT must be split into two streams, one for hospitals and another for the private sector with the separation of budgets, the policy must be thoroughly reviewed, we could then keep the laboratories that have been back for now, and hope to convince the others to return Mr. Amira concluded.
Innovative international laboratories, it is important to emphasize, provide medicines that improve patients’ quality of life and, in some cases, even prolong it. To deprive Tunisian patients of these medicines is to deprive them of better care and to deprive them of the right to the best care. This implies that Tunisia must go back decades in a world that is developing rapidly. This ultimately compromises the integrity and reputation of the entire country.
Myriam Ben Zineb