Tech transfers are being carried out as isolated, yet valuable, initiatives
Technology transfers and local manufacturing of medicines and vaccines could have a positive impact on access to antimicrobials
- Localised production facilities reduce the risk of supply chain issues and shortages
- Africa accounts for nearly 17% of the world’s population, but produces only 3% of the medicines and 1% of the vaccines it consumes
Medicines and vaccines are produced via sensitive, multi-stage, and highly technical processes. To give an idea of the complexity, it can take more than a year to complete all manufacturing and quality steps for a single batch of vaccines.
It is important that multiple manufacturers can master these processes – to make sure supply can meet demand everywhere in the world, and to minimise the impact of a shutdown of a single manufacturing site. Further, when medicines and vaccines are produced locally, the shorter supply chains help lower the risk of regional shortages.
To support the development of local manufacturing in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), pharma companies can invest in capacity building and technology transfers – whereby the skills, knowledge, technologies, and manufacturing methods are shared with local manufacturing partners.
Of the 18 on-patent vaccines included in this analysis, nine are subject to a technology transfer initiative; by contrast, very few initiatives covering any of the 148 on-patent and off-patent medicines (antibiotics and antifungals) have been reported to the Benchmark.
Medicines which are covered by an initiative include tuberculosis products, as well as some older antibiotics – including one ‘Watch’ antibiotic.
A pharma company transfers knowledge about the process to make a specific medicine or vaccine to a manufacturing site in a country where that product is needed, along with the technology necessary to manufacture it.
Building manufacturing or supply chain capacity by working with local partner manufacturers, distributors, and logistics providers to identify bottlenecks and improve capacity for appropriate supply chain and manufacturing management
Pharmaceutical companies can invest in local manufacturing facilities to produce raw ingredients and/or finished products, by financing and building reliable infrastructures and helping staff develop technical expertise.
Lack of capability and training are significant challenges. Companies that demonstrate best practice often partner with others, and/or open their own offices locally. They also work with other stakeholders (such as governments and NGOs) to plan transfers of technology to enable products to be made sustainably.
Pharmaceutical companies’ decisions to transfer technology depends on a variety of factors, such as finding a local partner, local politics and market environment, political stability, or good regulatory standards.
While low-income countries are not always able to meet these conditions, stable and industrialised upper-middle-income and lower-middle-income countries may present an opportunity for successful technology transfer.1
Zoom-in on technology transfers and manufacturing in Africa
Africa accounts for nearly 17% of the world’s population, but produces only 3% of
the medicines and 1% of the vaccines it consumes. Most of the medicines and vaccines distributed must be imported from producers in foreign countries such as India and China, which means they pass through multiple distribution channels and intermediaries.
Up to half of the patients in Africa are estimated to lack access to critical medicines.2 In sub-Saharan Africa, only Kenya, Nigeria, and South Africa have a relatively sizeable industry, with several companies that produce for their local markets and, in some cases, for export to neighbouring countries.3
Even though supply chains remain international and fragmented, and countries may still need to source raw materials, active ingredients, or excipients from abroad, pharma companies can continue to build sustainable initiatives to enable more countries and regions to produce their own medicines and vaccines locally in the long term.
1. International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers & Associations. The Research-Based Pharmaceutical Industry Experience. Published online 2015.
2. Africa Resource Center. About Us, Africa Resource Center. Published 2021. Accessed October 21, 2021. https://www.africaresourcecentre.org/about-us/
3. McKinsey & Company. Evaluating the sub-Saharan African pharmaceutical market | McKinsey. Published 2019. Accessed October 21, 2021. https://www.mckinsey.
Image notes by map
Morocco: Health Action International WHO. Medicine prices and access to medicines in the Eastern Mediterranean Region Presentation of price information. Published online 2008. Accessed October 21, 2021. http://www.haiweb.org/
Burkina Faso: Africa Resource Center. Strengthening medicine supply planning in South Africa during COVID-19. Published 2021. Accessed October 21, 2021. https://www.africaresourcecentre.org/strengthening-medicine-supply-planning-during-covid19/
Nigeria: Awucha NE, Janefrances OC, Meshach AC, Henrietta JC, Daniel AI, Chidiebere NE. Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Consumers’ Access to Essential Medicines in Nigeria. Am J Trop Med Hyg. 2020;103(4):1630. doi:10.4269/ AJTMH.20-0838
South Africa: The World Bank. South Africa Overview: Development news, research, data | World Bank. Published 2019. Accessed October 21, 2021. https://www.worldbank.org/en/country/southafrica/overview#1
Zambia: The World Bank. Zambia | Data. Published 2021. Accessed October 21, 2021. https://data.worldbank.org/country/zambia
Zambia/India: Handema R, Kandeke C, Lupuma A, Lishimpi L, Yeta C. Measuring Transparency to Improve Good Governance in the Public Pharmaceutical Sector ZAMBIA. Published online 2012.