According to BMI Research’s latest Egypt Pharmaceuticals and Healthcare Report, the national drug-manufacturing industry was worth €3.8bn in 2015, making it “one of the most attractive investment destinations in MENA.” The report highlighted the large local market and Egypt’s improved economic outlook in its positive analysis.
Most of Egypt’s pharmaceuticals production is consumed ‘at home’, but innovative companies, like Pharco Pharmaceuticals, have entered into partnerships with global players to license cutting-edge drugs for the regional marketplace. Last November, Pharco announced a deal with San Francisco-based Presidio Pharmaceuticals to market the US’ company’s hepatitis C virus (HCV) inhibitor across Egypt and MENA. Pharco and Presidio also agreed to perform a large clinical trial on all HCV genotypes, together with the Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative (DNDI), in 2016.
“Egypt has the highest prevalence of HCV worldwide,” explains Sherine Helmy, Pharco’s CEO. “Between 7% and 10% of the population has HCV. Each patient costs €60,000 for the healthcare that he, and those he infects, needs. We have a 95% cure rate and have made it affordable. Our slogan is $5 a day to keep hepatitis C away.”
Pharco was founded in 1987 by Helmy’s father and, today, is the flagship of nine companies that make up Pharco Corporation. Collectively, they sell 514m units a year, making them Egypt’s number-one drug manufacturer, and export to 57 nations worldwide.
The firm also pioneered the manufacture of soft gelatine capsules as a means of administering medicine in specific doses, a technology previously unused in Egypt: “This gave us an edge,” Helmy says. “Having a niche is good, so we started serving other pharmaceutical companies. We now produce for Glaxo, Novartis, locals like Sedico and EEPI, and public-sector companies like Misr Company for Pharmaceuticals.”
Leveraging its expertise and reputation, in line with industry best practices, Pharco developed a dedicated facility to make antibiotics for the likes of Pfizer and BMS, another to handle hormones, and, Helmy notes, “started doing jobs that are not in the general manufacturing process.” The corporation now has 10 facilities owned by six subsidiaries and two trading companies to market its 500 product references. Since 2011 alone, Pharco has invested €58m to build four new plants.
“We first take care of quality: our products and brands are customer-oriented and we have a very good understanding of the market,” Helmy says. “Then, we do quantity; economies of scale and market penetration. Pharco’s task is to make inexpensive, effective, and safe medicines, not only for Egypt, but for the world.”