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The Egyptian Pharmaceutical Industry Is a National Asset
An employee of Egyptian pharmaceutical company Eva Pharma works on the production line of Remdesivir, a broad-spectrum antiviral medication which has been approved as a specific treatment for COVID-19, Giza, Egypt, June 29, 2020. (Fadel Dawood/picture alliance via Getty Images)

The Egyptian Pharmaceutical Industry Is a National Asset

Al-Masry Al-Youm, Egypt, February 18

There is no doubt that the coronavirus changed many things about the global economy, but perhaps the most obvious change of all was the meteoric rise of pharmaceutical companies. Sales of disinfectants, masks, and vaccines have skyrocketed since the start of the pandemic. At times, I found myself suspicious that maybe the political decisions we witnessed in major countries around the world were directly coordinated with the heads of these monopolistic companies. To clarify, I do not mean to suggest that all pharmaceutical companies are evil or guided by greed. I do, however, believe that drug companies have been using the coronavirus crisis to compete over big money from governments around the world, and have placed enormous strain on Western governments to promote policies that favor their commercial agendas. We’ve already witnessed situations in the past in which pharmaceutical companies limited or even discontinued the manufacturing of a certain drug in order to protect its prices. But while they protected their own profit and shareholders, they directly hurt people who were suffering. Therefore, a country cannot simply rely on international drug conglomerates to supply crucial medicine. A look at history shows that while the pharmaceutical industry in Egypt remained fairly nascent during our first decades of independence, it began growing during the Nasser era, with the emergence of government-owned drug companies. One of the pioneers of this industry was Dr. Abdo Salam, who was head of an Egyptian pharmaceutical company and was later appointed President Gamal Abdel Nasser’s health minister. And while many countries of the world experienced epidemics throughout history, Egypt had a disproportionate share of them. During the course of the 20th century, our country experienced a wave of tuberculosis, cholera, and typhoid, among other diseases. Suddenly, the people of Egypt discovered that the pharmaceutical industry in their country developed significantly, and Egyptian drugs quickly became competitive with imported medicine. The drug industry in Egypt became a manifestation of our nation’s progress: not only medically but also politically. The ability to provide cheap Egyptian-manufactured drugs to those who were suffering was a dramatic improvement to the situation we had known before, where the sick and the elderly could not afford medication manufactured abroad. Therefore, the Egyptian government must continue to protect our pharmaceutical industry. If the current pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that deadly diseases and viruses are not going to disappear from our lives anytime soon. The only way to effectively deal with epidemics and provide treatment for the sick is to continually develop advanced medicines. That is what Egypt must do. –Mustafa Al-Feki (translated by Asaf Zilberfarb)

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Felice Friedson
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