Pharma multinationals drawn by SA’s unhealthy population – research

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South Africa’s unhealthy population makes the county attractive to pharmaceutical multinationals. Business Day reports that this is according to BMI Research, which said that widespread tobacco usage, exposure to environmental carcinogens, an increasingly westernised lifestyle, and a high prevalence of risk-associated viruses like human papillomavirus, hepatitis B and C, translate into growing demand for cancer treatments. Cancer accounted for 38,348, or 21%, of South Africa’s chronic disease-driven deaths in 2015, according to BMI’s Disease Database.

“We forecast this figure to reach 58,683 (23%) by 2030,” the researchers said. “As the country’s cancer burden continues to rise significantly, this will provide greater revenue-earning opportunities for pharmaceutical companies whose product portfolios include oncology treatments. Roche, Sanofi, Cipla Medro, AstraZenca and Novartis are active players in SA’s oncology market,” BMI said.

Cancer vaccines could be one way of providing protection for patients with little access to basic healthcare, with GlaxoSmithKline and Merck’s cervical cancer vaccines both winning Medicines Control Council approval in 2013. Despite these developments, it is likely that the survival rate for cancer in SA will remain low, as underlying risk factors, rudimentary health infrastructure, and shortages in funding exacerbate challenges related to diagnosis and treatment, the report said.

South Africa’s diabetes problem is another growth market for international drug companies. The International Diabetes Federation (IDF) estimates 7% of South Africa’s adult population has diabetes, far higher than the African average of 3.2%. The IDF estimates that in 2015, there were 1.4m cases of diabetes in South African adults that were undiagnosed. “This is a concern as there are numerous medical complications that can result from diabetes, leading to considerable indirect healthcare costs,” the report said.

BMI forecasts South Africa’s HIV/Aids problem will remain a key area of commercial interest for the drug industry. According to the 2016 UNAIDS report, around 7m people in South Africa suffer from HIV/Aids, with 180,000 associated deaths recorded in 2015. The country also had the highest rate of new HIV infections in the world at over 380,000 in 2015.

In 2015, government spent R10.3bn on antiretrovirals (ARVs), awarding the tenders to Cipla Medpro, Aspen Pharmacare, Mylan Pharmaceuticals and Sonke Pharmaceuticals.

“In April, Johnson & Johnson (J&J) announced the launch of its global public health strategy at the opening of its on-the-ground public health operations in Cape Town. The new site will focus on three disease areas, including HIV/Aids and tuberculosis. Sanofi have also managed to carve a significant role in the South African pharmaceutical market, supported via the agreement with Hetero Drugs to locally produce ARVs – contributing to the government’s objective to secure 8% locally supplied ARVs. We expect SA’s HIV/Aids burden to remain a primary focus for the government over the coming years, driving sales in generic antiretrovirals,” BMI said.

Business Day report
BMI Research Disease Database

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