Olivier de Berranger

Running on empty?

Like Australia’s ‘flying doctors’, an airlift of physicians is currently linking Dijon and Nevers. To fill the gap in healthcare personnel in the medical desert that the department of Nièvre has become, general practitioners, nurses and pulmonologists are being routed by air, making for a very busy day. This pioneering initiative is no tall tale.

And the outlook is no rosier on the pharmaceutical front, with antibiotics, anti-inflammatories and basic painkillers. Tensions are building along the supply chains, and shortages are affecting pharmacies as well as hospitals. These drug stock-outs are worsening – and reaching every corner of Europe.

The issue at hand is healthcare access, a crucial and vital issue of concern to all Europeans. And there’s no remedy within easy reach. In fact, 80% of pharmaceutical assets are produced in Asia – far from the Continent. In France, more than 75% of the active ingredient in paracetamol, which is frequently out of stock, comes from China and India. The problem could become chronic. As has been the plan since the Covid crisis, relocation of total paracetamol production to the site of the last production unit in Europe to close (2008), in Isère, is not expected to be operational until 2026. It’s becoming quite a headache.

Although, as Nietzsche said, “there is no such thing as health in itself”, it does have a price and a cost, and masks serious inequalities. The new global health economy is facing multiple challenges, including heavy pressure on drug prices, and healthcare accessibility – geographic or financial. Indeed, half the world’s population has no access to basic healthcare, and the WHO estimates that each year, 100 million people are pushed into poverty by the cost of care.

The availability of caregivers, healthcare infrastructures and medicines is one of the biggest issues in healthcare access. It’s a global challenge for which solutions are emerging, developed by innovative companies, that could have a transformative impact.

These include the software developed by Germany’s Nexus[1], which frees nurses up from administrative tasks and optimizes patient monitoring (digitalizing patient records, coordinating care processes at the hospital and managing blood inventories). In the same vein, innovative biotechs, specifically in immunotherapy, are developing treatments for illnesses that currently have no solution.

Some pharmaceutical laboratories like Novo Nordisk, in addition to their breakthroughs against diabetes, are helping improve geographic and financial access to healthcare using ambitious policies deployed in developing countries. Another example is Lonza, a Swiss flagship pharmaceutical subcontractor. They are industrializing particularly complex biomedicine manufacturing processes.

Financial accessibility may also be fostered by progress in in vitro diagnostics, in which Biomérieux is the French expert, which represents just 2-3% of healthcare expenses worldwide, although it is a key part of medical decision-making.

The healthcare sector is booming. Global healthcare spending, which totalled $8.5 trillion in 2019, continues to increase at a very brisk pace. And Covid drove home the idea of transforming the sector.

Supporting businesses’ prodigious capacity for innovation is opening up promising horizons – as well as investment opportunities with great potential.

Supporting businesses’ prodigious capacity for innovation to improve healthcare access is the goal of LFDE’s impact strategy, Echiquier Health Impact for All[2], by targeting what we think are the best solutions developed the world over.

This month’s Editorial by Olivier de Berranger, Deputy Chief Executive Officer and CIO, and Louis Porrini, Fund Manager, La Financière de l’Echiquier (LFDE)


[1] Stocks referred to are given by way of example. Neither their presence in the portfolios nor their performance are guaranteed.

[2] The Fund is mostly invested in equities and is primarily exposed to the risk of capital loss, equity risk, small and mid-cap investment risk and currency risk. For more information on its characteristics, risks and fees, please view the regulatory documents available on www.lfde.com.


Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this document are the author’s own. LFDE shall not be held liable for these opinions in any way.