Sanofi embarks on doc-training in Morocco to boost diabetes, epilepsy care

In established markets, Big Pharma targets doctors to boost sales. In emerging markets, drugmakers train them. Directly. Several of the globe's biggest pharma companies have dispatched medical educators to exotic destinations like the Chinese hinterlands, often in partnership with local governments. Now, Sanofi ($SNY) plans to take its educational efforts into Morocco, with three new government collaborations there.

The French drugmaker has been operating in the north African country for half a century, but it's revving up its operations there with a €20 million logistics center that will distribute products in-country and to other countries in sub-Saharan Africa. To take advantage of that increase in domestic capacity, Sanofi will help Morocco beef up its capacity to treat patients. Two of the collaborations involve training doctors and developing new treatment facilities in Type 1 diabetes, and mental disorders and epilepsy. The third aims at developing the pharma industry in Morocco, via training regulatory technicians and managers.

The disease partnerships mirror similar efforts in China and India, by Sanofi and other drugmakers as well. Under a three-year agreement, Sanofi will help the Moroccan government develop diabetes-care protocols for children and adolescents, training doctors and other healthcare providers to treat kids with the disease. The company will also upgrade 11 treatment facilities and set up two new ones. The 5-year deal in epilepsy and mental health involves training 40 psychiatrists, 160 general practitioners and 160 nurses, plus disease-awareness campaigns for patients.

Compared with Sanofi's 10,000-doctor training initiative in China, begun in 2011, the Moroccan collaborations are small. But they illustrate Big Pharma's efforts to capture growth in the emerging markets, which have turned out to be a bit more difficult to penetrate than some companies thought. Eli Lilly ($LLY), for one, saw its emerging-markets growth flag late last year.

And Sanofi is far from the only company using physician training, disease awareness and government partnerships to boost its presence in developing countries. After the French company announced its Chinese program, Novo Nordisk ($NVO) said it would be amping up on professional education and patient training as well. Bayer has an ongoing professional-training program in China, aimed at educating doctors and hospital staffers in rural areas. Novartis ($NVS) has been working since 2007 to partner with rural Indian doctors, and Sanofi has its own doctor-mentoring efforts in India, aiming to reach 100,000 physicians by 2015.

- read the Sanofi release (PDF)

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