Picture: 123RF/Tadamichi
Picture: 123RF/Tadamichi

Pharmaceutical manufacturer MSD on Thursday called for African countries to invest in better healthcare data, arguing it was vital for assessing the market opportunities for new drugs and diagnostics.

MSD Africa managing director Priya Agrawal said a lack of incidence data – which measures the rate at which new cases occur – was holding back investment decisions.

“We need partnership to get the data to support business ventures. Support companies by investing in good data so they understand the market,” she said at an event hosted by Philips Healthcare and CNBC Africa on the side lines of the World Economic Forum Africa meeting underway this week in Cape Town.

Health Minister Zweli Mkhize told the audience that the government’s plans for implementing universal health coverage, known in SA as National Health Insurance, would require co-operation with the private sector. “We are ready to partner,” he said.

Mkhize said it was important to strike a balance between the competing interests of government and business.

“We would like to see lower prices. But we need to at the same time make sure investments are sustainable.,” he said.

Agrawal subsequently told Business Day that Africa’s lack of regulatory harmony for regulating medicines also posed a barrier to business. Unlike the European Union, which had a single medicines registration system for all its members, African countries have different regulatory regimes. It means industry has to produce new registration dossiers for each country, a costly and time-consuming process that can prove a deterrent to entering new markets.  

"Innovation is not just about the next shiny new object," she said, suggesting there was scope for government and the private sector to collaborate in creating an enabling environment for business. 

kahnt@businesslive.co.za