Egyptian International Pharmaceuticals Industries (EIPICO) is a manufacturer and top Egyptian exporter of pharmaceutical products. The public shareholding company has over 5,000 employees, 400 products on the market and exports to 65 countries across the globe. With decades of experience as a leader in the Egyptian pharmaceutical sector, Dr. Ahmed Kilani was elected chairman of EIPICO in January 2019. Here, he explains the company’s international leadership and its strategy to help boost the quality of not only the Egyptian healthcare system, but healthcare systems around the world.
EIPICO accounts for approximately 25% of Egypt’s total drug exports. Could you elaborate on the company’s exports and its strategy for the future?
EIPICO started exporting in 1987 and currently exports pharmaceutical products to 65 countries. But the company is not stopping there and has plans to significantly expand over the next years. We are the leader in drug exports in the country, even as the culture in Egypt is changing and more people are realizing the need to expand beyond our borders. This is what I’ve done and have been advocating for in the pharmaceutical industry throughout my career. I believe there is a lot of potential to further expand in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) countries like Russia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Armenia and Kazakhstan. The total CIS region has a population of nearly 240 million and the countries have strong economies that are growing. Furthermore, they are safe for businesses and investments. The next area that I believe has a lot of potential is East Africa, especially Rwanda. I believe Rwanda is really like the Switzerland of Africa. Geographically, it is very strategically located and it has good relationships with neighboring countries like Tanzania, Uganda, and South Sudan. I think that having more outward facing businesses like EIPICO would be very beneficial to Egypt.
What are EIPICO’s main products and activities?
The company manufactures and exports pharmaceuticals and holds license agreements with a group of international pharmaceutical companies to produce their products locally and replace the imported ones. The company has around 400 different products including antibiotics, anesthetics, analgesics, antihypertensive, cholesterol-lowering medications, ophthalmic products, blood substitutes and restoratives, dermatological drugs and vitamins. It also makes different types of dosing forms like long-acting capsules, soft gelatin capsules, lyophilized products, gels, sprayers and effervescent tablets. EIPICO has a quality management system that complies with international regulations and ensures that the products are safe, effective and conform to updated requirements.
How would you define the operating philosophy behind EIPICO?
Our motto is “yes we can.” It reflects our intense effort to assist healthcare systems both in Egypt and abroad by providing high-quality pharmaceutical products at reasonable prices. Through coming up with innovative entrepreneurial ideas, meticulous planning and our hardworking team, we are dedicated to finding solutions to the problems of the medical community. We save no effort to enhance the quality of human life through both the quality and accessibility of our products.
What is your full strategy to further grow the company?
Technology is a key axis for development. We are planning to establish a new facility in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region to manufacture biosimilar active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) and produce finish products. Biosimilar products are medical products that replicate innovative pharmaceutical products once the original’s patent expires. Unlike generic drugs, which are usually of the more common small-molecule type, biosimilar products usually exhibit high molecular complexity. One week ago, I was in Argentina and we had contact with a research center about technology transfer to start producing biosimilar products in Egypt. We are also working with companies in Switzerland, India and South Korea in terms of technology. In terms of machinery, we’ve completed a study on new investment and it could exceed 700 million Egyptian Pounds (€37 million), including the cost of technology transfer. We hope we can start at the end of the fourth quarter of 2019. We have many plans and an ambitious strategy for growth. We want to penetrate more countries, establish new facilities and provide opportunities for our technical people to work in different countries. This last point is key because if we succeed, it will go towards changing the corporate culture through interaction with other cultures. It will improve the skills of our own people. I believe Egyptians have to change the culture both through education and international exposure. I am not working for myself, and am putting great effort into ensuring sustainability and a better future for the next generation.
How would you describe your collaboration with the Egyptian government?
We are very close to the Minister of Health because of our position. I could even say that we are the army of the government. When the government has targets related to the health sector, we are here to help. For example, say our president’s goal is to get rid of a certain virus. We, at the pharmaceutical companies, have the tools to achieve those targets. Every few weeks we meet with the Ministry to discuss the goals of the government. And I take the government’s dreams as orders. I’ve done that throughout my career. For instance, Egypt had to deal with a shortage of insulin a few years back. So I went and acquired a company that made insulin. In just two years, we went from covering between 5-10% of the market to 99%. In 2019, our target surrounding biosimilar products falls along those lines as well. These products can contribute to boosting the security and efficiency in the Egyptian healthcare system and healthcare systems around the world. We always need to be improving on the overall quality of products, not just to cover people’s needs today, but also foresee upcoming needs and satisfy them.
How would you describe the state of technological innovation in the Egyptian pharmaceutical industry?
In Egypt, unfortunately, we use technology but we don’t develop it ourselves. Look at what Japan did over the last decades. First, they used technology from Europe but then they started building on it and developing new products themselves. That’s what I’d like to see in Egypt. That’s why I would like to make a new facility for conventional pharmaceuticals, that’s why I encourage my company to do more to innovate, not just be a user. We import programs or machines, we put them in place and then sell the products. But I want to create more value. It helps with speed, it helps with stability. We don’t need to invent new technology from scratch, but we need to take what’s available and see if we can make even small advances on it. That’s also been China’s strategy and you can see how that’s working for them.