The pandemic has shown, among other evidence, that medicines are a strategic asset for countries and has made European and national authorities ask themselves how to reverse the excessive dependence on other countries – especially Asian countries – for the manufacture of certain active ingredients and strategic medicines. It has become a priority issue in countries’ policies. In fact, Spain is considering it as one of the priorities in the development of the Strategic Plan for the Pharmaceutical Industry, as was made clear at the meeting in late December between the Prime Minister, Pedro Sánchez, and top representatives of the sector.
In this area, Spain has an advantage over the majority of Member States, as the technical director of Farmaindustria, Emili Esteve, made clear a few days ago at the opening of the 20th Conference on standards for the correct manufacture of medicines and active ingredients, which is organised every year by the Catalan Department of Health. “Spain is one of the European countries with the greatest potential for the manufacture of medicines, precisely at a time when we have seen clearly to what extent medicines are a strategic and security asset for countries,” he said. We have a strong industrial fabric with a high presence of national and multinational companies,” he added, “which have our country as a key part of their production chain.
According to the study on the industrial implementation of the pharmaceutical sector in Spain, carried out by the consultancy firm ManageArt for Farmaindustria, the pharmaceutical industry in Spain has a total of 103 plants producing medicines for human use, 11 of which produce biological medicines. If we add the factories producing active ingredients (46) and veterinary medicines (24), the total number of pharmaceutical plants in Spain is 173, belonging to 122 business groups.
The highest concentration of these plants is in Catalonia, with 45% of the total (79). As Esteve reported, this fact places this autonomous community as “one of the benchmarks for drug production in Spain and Europe with significant growth potential, with all that this means for the environment in which they are located”.
It should not be forgotten that drug production plants are linked to boosting employment, both because of their knock-on effect on other sectors and because of the quality of employment, with above-average wage levels. In Spain, these factories directly employ 36,338 people, with an accumulated annual growth of 4.2% since 2019. In addition, adding the indirect and induced jobs generated by this industry due to its high number of suppliers and outsourced services, they contribute to a total of 183,506 jobs in our country, according to the aforementioned report.
Another important variable is the high level of internationalisation of Spanish plants, which, according to data from the National Statistics Institute (INE) and the Secretary of State for Foreign Trade, would exceed 75% of national production, since “medicines are the fourth most exported product in Spain”, recalled the technical director of Farmaindustria.
“We have the right foundations to become a major hub for the production of medicines in Europe,” said Esteve. To achieve this, “the only thing we need is to have a clear roadmap, a medium- and long-term strategy that gives confidence to the sector to be able to make the necessary investments in this area”.
Attended by more than 350 experts, the Conference on Good Manufacturing Practices for Medicines and Active Ingredients is a benchmark in the manufacture of drugs and provides an overview of the main new developments that most affect manufacturing companies. In this edition, held in person after two years of virtual conferences due to the pandemic, Emili Esteve shared the opening with Clara Pareja, Director General of Health Planning and Regulation of the Catalan Ministry of Health; Jordi Casas, President of the Council of Pharmaceutical Associations of Catalonia; Jordi Camarasa, Dean of the Catalan Pharmaceutical Associations; Jordi Camarasa, President of the Catalan Pharmaceutical Associations; Jordi Camarasa, President of the Catalan Pharmaceutical Associations; Jordi Camarasa, President of the Catalan Pharmaceutical Associations; Jordi Camarasa, Dean of the Faculty of Pharmacy and Food Sciences of the University of Barcelona; Mª Luisa Espinós, President of the Spanish Association of Fine Chemical Products (Afaquim); Mercedes Carrera, President of the Catalan Section of the Spanish Association of Industry Pharmacists (AEFI), and Mar Fábregas, President of the Spanish Association of Generic Medicines (Aeseg).