Al-Ahram 2nd pharmaceutical conference: Bringing all parties together

Hossam Zayed , Tuesday 19 Oct 2021

On the second and final day of the second edition of Al-Ahram Pharmaceutical Conference, various participants in the session on "Digitisation and the future industry in the field of health care stressed to support Egypt as a regional center for the pharmaceutical industry" stressed the importance of digital transformation not only in the health care system, but in all areas and services.

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Dr. Yousri Nawar, the president of Pfizer and the chair of the session, explained that the Corona pandemic prompted countries to accelerate the pace of digital transformation and expansion in the use of artificial intelligence technology to face the effects of the pandemic.

Nawar said that the world is going through a defining historical moment, as countries have started to recover from the effects of the Coronavirus pandemic and realised the need to think of different methods and ways to confront challenges.

He added that we also live in the heart of a defining moment in the history of the healthcare system in Egypt characterised by a great achievement in the form of the start of the implementation of the new comprehensive health insurance system, which will reshape the health system for future generations for tens of millions of Egyptians.

For his part, Engineer Hossam Sadek, the executive director of the Comprehensive Health Insurance, stressed that digital transformation has become an urgent necessity for any institution in the world, not only insurance institutions.

He explained that Egypt's Comprehensive Health Insurance Authority aims to facilitate procedures and provide services to all beneficiaries without obstacles.

He added that the authority will be responsible for 120 million citizens in the coming 8 years.

"No healthcare authority in the world is responsible for such a massive number of people," he stressed.

He explained that every citizen, according to studies and statistics, interacts and visits the healthcare system between 4 to 5 times a year, which means that we are dealing with 500 to 600 million annual visits, explaining that most of the interactions in the future will take place in digital form.

He stressed that digital transformation helps the state to plan well and provide services nationwide in a rational manner, and to build huge databases for beneficiaries.

In the closing session of the conference, Ibrahim Sarhan, the chairman and managing director of iFinance, explained that the company is expanding its services in the Egyptian market and that the digitization of health insurance services is one of the most important projects that the company is working on.

"We launched the 'iHealth card' for health insurance after 3 years of coordination and trouble-shooting with the Ministry of Communications," he explained.

"We contracted a highly specialized and experienced company to implement the digital health insurance system according to the highest technical standards and rational financial plans.

He said that we have accomplished a difficult task in cooperation with the government sector, which is collecting and systematising the data available at the Health Insurance Authority.

"The next task is how to deal with the service through the latest technology and its application will provide the best services to citizens," he said.

He concluded his speech by revealing that the offering of the company's shares on the Egyptian Stock Exchange received great interest from investors, and at the end of yesterday's trading, the stock was covered 61 times, which confirms confidence in the company's performance and its future.

For his part, Colonel Engineer Mohamed Mujahid, the director of the General Department of Statistics, Reports and Electronic Publishing in the Central Administration for Information Systems and Digital Transformation at the Unified Procurement Authority, said the authority has designed a unified database on health systems in Egypt from the largest to the smallest health unit in Egypt.

He pointed out that work is underway to establish 6 strategic depots to secure the country's needs for medicine and to transform Egypt into a regional centre for medicine in the Arab region and the African continent.

Technology to serve patients

Dr. Ola Ali El-Din, the Vice President for Business Development and Government Relations at Vezeeta, drew attention to the importance of using technology in serving patients, whether in communication with doctors or provision of medicine, as well as using technology to book health services in order to facilitate receiving treatment services.

Samia Abdou Gerges, the Deputy Executive Director of Ain Shams University Hospitals and Director of Infection Control, said there is a bright side to the Coronavirus pandemic, which is increased awareness of the importance of prevention and ways to combat infection, and accelerating the use of technology and digital transformation.

Meanwhile, Dr. Rasha Ziada, Assistant to the President of the Egyptian Medicines Authority for Technical Development and Capacity Development, stressed that "the processes of digital transformation is not an easy one."

"Although many companies have started digitisation, studies have shown that 37% of companies have failed to achieve any benefit from digital transformation processes, and about 50% of digital transformation efforts, since 2018, have failed to achieve their goals," she said.

The challenges facing digital transformation processes lie in the lack of competencies and the unwillingness of some institutions to change, in addition to the need to create the appropriate infrastructures, she added.

To face some of the challenges hampering digitisation efforts, she noted, the medicines authority has provided a 24-hour hotline 15301 to receive inquiries about drug consultations, drug shortages, and violations.

Dr. Ola Ali El-Din said that the Egyptian health sector has witnessed a historic transformation under the weight of the Covid-19 crisis as all sectors in the country rose to meet this challenge.

She added that about 30% of new investments went to the healthcare sector during the year 2020.

The company has increased reliance on technology over the past two years, she explained.

By doing this, she added, "We were able to reach and help many hospitals, whether in the public or private sectors."

"We have provided many services to the medical sector, starting with medical service providers, and the health insurance project in Egypt, and we also provided consulting services to more than one pharmaceutical company." she said.

She explained that software was developed and sold to doctors inside clinics, and linked with pharmaceutical companies, in order to increase reliance on technology and help them compile an electronic record of patients' data.

The Egyptian pharmaceutical industry and concerned authorities: Developing and changing

Dr. Sami Khalil, director of Takeda Egypt, confirmed that the international drug companies took it upon themselves - as part of the implementation of the policies of the New Republic - to cooperate with the new government bodies such as the Unified Purchasing, the Egyptian Medicine Authority, the Comprehensive Health Insurance Authority and the Healthcare Authority.

These bodies have proven the Egyptian ability to change, develop, and engage in ​​true partnership by opening the markets for larger numbers of medicines, speeding up the registration process, and implementing unified purchase procedures while guaranteeing a drug with an actual value for the patient.

Dr. Sami Khalil

$200 billion annually for scientific research globally - Egypt’s share is 1%!

Dr. Hatem El-Wardani, the chairman of the Board of Directors of AstraZeneca, said during the session under the title "The Role of Multinational Companies in Promoting Scientific Research in Egypt - Challenges and Prospects" that the total annual expenditure globally on scientific research is about $200 billion annually.

He explained that AstraZeneca is one of the top ten global companies in spending on scientific research and alone spends about $6 billion annually.

"The Middle East region, however, is one of the least regions in benefiting from this spending with only 11% of research conducted in the Middle East and Africa. Turkey and South Africa are the two most attractive countries for research in that region because of the laws they have that help attract global research," he explained.

"Although there is a huge number of research being conducted globally in 2021, Egypt, despite its enormous scientific potential, is home to less than 1% of these researches," he noted.

 

He praised the current efforts made by the state to issue the Scientific Research Law No. 214 of 2020 in order to increase Egypt's share of global research expenditure.

He urged the speedy issuance of the executive regulations of the law in order for it to be activated quickly.

He also called for the need to unify and integrate review committees to reduce the complexities of the procedures of approvals for research.

He pointed to the benefits that Egypt accrues from participating in global research. He explained that such participation provides medicine and medical care for participating patients, contributes to improving the infrastructure of hospitals and universities participating in research, and is considered one of the sources of increasing national income. It also contributes to the transfer of the latest foreign expertise in scientific research to Egypt, he added.

Medicine production in Egypt: A historic transformation

Dr. Mohamed Swailem, the president of Roche Company, expressed his appreciation for the role played by the Al-Ahram Foundation in organising events related to the drug file.

He pointed out that the pharmaceutical industry in Egypt is witnessing a historical transformation, citing unprecedented cooperation and support between the government and local and international companies to provide the best level of treatment service to the Egyptian patient.

He said that the most important characteristic of the current stage in this transformation is the existence of a specific and clear vision that has been translated into legislation and laws, as well as bodies and institutions operating on the ground.

He explained that pharmaceutical companies support the state's vision in providing the best medical service to the Egyptian patient.

Roche Egypt, he said, strongly values the achievements of the Egyptian government over the past few years - particularly through presidential initiatives - in transforming the public-private partnership model in the health sector.

"These initiatives have led to a real transformation in the environment surrounding the healthcare system and improved quality of care," he added.

"For example, the presidential Breast Cancer Initiative - which we are proud to be a part of -provides Egyptian women with world-class care and the latest treatments, helping Egyptian women receive the same level of treatment in Egypt as abroad.”

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Serving the Egyptian patient better: Rapid changes

Dr. Samer Lazik, director of Bayer Egypt, said that "Egypt's Vision 2030 is moving at an incredible speed compared to other countries I worked in, including America, Germany and China."

"The Egyptian state and the government believe that all Egyptians have the right to receive the highest standards of quality in health," he noted.

He explained that he found during his work in America for 4 years that 100 million out of the 330 million American citizens did not receive any health coverage, even though the government there spends 18% of the national GDP every year on healthcare.

"The issue is not how much is spent, but the efficiency with which it is spent," he stressed.

"There has been an increase in health allowances every year in the last 4 years," he noted.

The government increased spending in the budget for the health sector by 2% to combat Covid-19 and presidential initiatives also provided more money for the health sector, he said.

"This is a terrific development. We are talking about 5 or 6% of the budget for the health sector, as stipulated in the constitution," he noted.

"Another title for the session today ought to be (the Egyptian patient is really fine and remains fine)," he added.

"There is already localisation of manufacturing pharmaceuticals since 89 percent of all boxes of medicine sold in Egypt is locally produced."

"This is an achievement that must be celebrated, and this can help facilitate the process of transferring technology to Egypt to produce drugs which are currently imported, especially those that treat rare diseases."

He also suggested that "there is an effective solution to ease the great pressures on the budget which is improving the process of analysis of information in the healthcare system to try to raise the efficiency of spending and achieve reliable figures on financial costs of diseases."

"In Egypt, they are working on this, and only 10 or 15% of the budgets are spent on medicine and the rest is spent on hospitals."

Dr. Samer Lazik

'Made in Egypt': The need to localize modern technology

Dr. Riad Armanois, the CEO of Eva Pharma Group, explained that 94% of medicines in the market are manufactured in Egypt, stressing that "the localisation of medicines requires localisation of modern technology,"

He said that the group has established the Mark Research Center to support Egyptian clinical research.

"The center has allocated EGP 20 million to support these researches until the end of this month."

"All researchers in all research institutions need technical support to reach results that benefit the idea of pre-clinical research in Egypt," he stressed.

Dr. Riad Armanois

Al-Ahram Pharmaceutical Conference: Bringing all parties together

For her part, Dr. Jihan Ramadan, director of the medical sector at the Swiss company Novartis, praised the success of the Al-Ahram pharmaceutical conference in its second edition in assembling all parties concerned from local and international industrial companies to develop the pharmaceutical industry in Egypt.

"Egypt is an attractive market, not only in the marketing of medicines, but also in the field of conducting clinical research."

"Is Egypt ready? The answer is yes, Egypt is ready."

Egypt is moving and imposing itself on the world map in scientific research for many reasons - a large population means a large pool of patients with varied diseases, which facilitates the presence and entry of patients into clinical studies.

Still, she warned, the culture of marriage among relatives increases the incidences of genetic and hereditary diseases, which require innovating new medicines and multiple clinical researches.

She stressed the importance of activating the law of real clinical research.

"There is a real boom taking place in the health system in Egypt during the past four years in many files and programs such as 100 million Healthy Lives initiative, the comprehensive health insurance program for early detection of many diseases, including Hepatitis C."

"This is what gives us greater hope and makes us need to focus on the scientific research file," she said.

Dr. Jihan Ramadan

Finally, Dr. Ali Omar, the head of the Pharmacoeconomics Sector at Novartis Pharma, said that providing the latest treatments and making them available in the Egyptian market is a process that requires the solidarity and cooperation of multiple health authorities.

"Here we must commend the effort made by the Egyptian Medicines Authority in accelerating the process of product registration and pricing," he noted.

 

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