Opportunities for Progress
Governments, health officials and companies operating in the MENA health sector are facing a series of policy-related opportunities and risks. Decisions governments make will influence the state of health care for patients across the region. There are four policy areas that require attention:
While health care expenditures in the Middle East and North Africa are rising (5.0 in 2014 to 5.5 in 2016), government investment in health is inadequate to meet growing demand. For example, the GCC countries have some of the highest rates of obesity and diabetes in the world. In 2030, NCDs will account for around 87 percent of all deaths in GCC countries and around 81 percent in non-GCC states.
Further, the relatively high cost of treatment and inconsistent quality standards weigh on the sector and results in families having to pay high out-of-pocket health care costs, forgo care or face impoverishment due to medical expenses.
For the sake of patients, communities and economies, countries in the MENA region must invest in health and adopt policies that promote innovation and ensure patient access to life saving medicines. Improving protections for patents and other intellectual property can help attract clinical trials and benefit the wider economy.
Treatment breakthroughs and wider health care access are allowing people across the MENA region to live longer, but there is still an urgent need for new treatments and cures for non-communicable diseases. Unmet medical needs and limited incentives for investment in new treatments could have dire consequences for the region, including premature deaths and rising health care costs.
Patients want to share in decisions about the medicines they take. But choices are limited when national governments do not prioritize the latest treatments in their health care spending. Research shows that more new drugs are available to patients in countries that devote a greater share of their pharmaceutical spending to innovation.
Over the next decade, new discoveries will treat diseases and help save millions more lives around the world. Research has found that strong intellectual property protection encourages in-class competition, resulting in improved access and uptake of new medicines, as well as bargaining power for patients and national health care systems.
The Middle East has the fastest growing incidence of cancer in the world, and it is expected to nearly double by 2030, however the average time to access is 3.5 years. Patients need fast access to the latest treatments, but administrative delays mean our patients wait far too long for access to many innovative treatments and cures.
There is a strong correlation between regulatory efficiency and investment by pharmaceutical companies in innovation, which leads to patients having more timely access to new medicines.