US embassy cable - 06CAIRO448

NEW EGYPTIAN MINISTER OF HEALTH BRINGS BUSINESSMAN'S APPROACH TO GOVERNMENT

Identifier: 06CAIRO448
Wikileaks: View 06CAIRO448 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Cairo
Created: 2006-01-26 11:03:00
Classification: UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY
Tags: EAGR ETRD PGOV PINR EG KFLU Health
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

261103Z Jan 06
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 CAIRO 000448 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SENSITIVE 
 
USDA FOR FAS/SHEIKH/BERNSTEIN 
USDOC FOR 4520/ITA/MAC/SAMS, TALAA AND JACOBS/WIEHAGEN 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: EAGR, ETRD, PGOV, PINR, EG, KFLU, Health 
SUBJECT: NEW EGYPTIAN MINISTER OF HEALTH BRINGS 
BUSINESSMAN'S APPROACH TO GOVERNMENT 
 
 
THIS CABLE IS SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED.  PLEASE PROTECT 
ACCORDINGLY. 
 
-------------------- 
Introduction/Summary 
-------------------- 
 
1.  (SBU) In a January 23 meeting with the Ambassador and key 
country team members in health and science affairs, newly 
installed Minister of Health and Population Hatem El Gabaly 
demonstrated that he will be a valuable addition to Egypt's 
reformer camp.  Displaying a "can do," business-like attitude 
that contrasted starkly with the style of his predecessor, 
the Minister discussed the GOE's avian influenza (AI) 
efforts, offered a possible way to exempt U.S. products from 
Egypt's blanket ban on poultry-related imports, and affirmed 
that Egypt would have to honor its intellectual property 
rights (IPR) obligations but also do everything within the 
law to support Egypt's pharmaceutical industry.  See para 6 
for biographical information.  End introduction/summary. 
 
---------------------- 
Cooperation with NAMRU 
---------------------- 
 
2.  (SBU) Minister El Gabaly expressed strong interest in 
cooperating with the USG on public health issues, including 
with the Cairo-based U.S. Naval Medical Research Unit 
(NAMRU-3).  The Ambassador called the Minister's attention to 
the GOE's AI-related ban on the importation of tissue 
samples, which are essential to NAMRU's work.  The Minister 
provided the Ambassador with its recently drafted general 
policy for bringing biological samples into Egypt.  El Gabaly 
said that the conditions listed in the policy were based on 
the World Health Organization (WHO) and Center for Disease 
Control (CDC) guidelines for transporting biological 
materials across international borders and would apply to all 
organizations and individuals seeking to import any 
biological samples.  Suggesting that he was interested in 
having NAMRU-3 resume its testing program, the Minister asked 
NAMRU to review these conditions and flag any that might 
prevent it from doing its work.  (Note:  NAMRU subsequently 
reviewed the policy, identified only minor concerns with it, 
and expects to restart importation of tissue samples within 
days.  End note.)  El Gabaly also requested that NAMRU-3 
inform the Minister or his senior-most staff, on a 
confidential basis, of positive AI test results of samples 
 
SIPDIS 
brought into Egypt. 
 
--------------- 
Avian Influenza 
--------------- 
 
3.  (SBU) El Gabaly noted that his ministry maintained daily 
contact with the WHO and would soon conduct a AI crisis 
simulation.  Moreover, the Minister informed his staff that 
failure to report any suspected case of AI directly to his 
office within 30 minutes of detection would result in the 
negligent official being fired. The Minister said that the 
GOE was also working closely with the Arab League to develop 
a fund to compensate farmers whose poultry has to be 
destroyed to prevent the spread of AI.  Drawing on the 
lessons of Turkey, El Gabaly said the fund would have to 
compensate farmers for both live poultry and eggs to ensure 
their full cooperation in AI eradication efforts.  El Gabaly 
said that his ministry was attempting to increase its stock 
of Tamiflu to 100,000 doses by year's end, but noted that 
Roche, the U.S. pharmaceutical producer, was unable to meet 
Egypt's demand, let alone demand for the entire region. 
 
4.  (SBU) The Ambassador noted that the GOE's blanket ban on 
imported poultry products imposed in response to AI concerns 
had adversely affected U.S. firms.  U.S. poultry products, he 
said, were processed in ways that ensured they were safe, and 
risk of contamination should not be a concern, as there have 
been no AI cases in the United States.  Minister El Gabaly 
replied that his ministry is reviewing the egg powder issue, 
but more broadly offered to exempt all U.S. products from the 
ban if they were certified as safe by any internationally 
recognized food-safety or health organization, including the 
U.S. FDA.  The Ambassador responded that such a certification 
was unnecessary because WHO guidance clearly indicated which 
products from which countries were safe.  Moreover, he argued 
that banning everything that is not explicitly approved was 
exactly the outdated kind of approach that keeps Egypt 
lagging behind other countries.  El Gabaly insisted that he 
had to take this approach because ministry staff would not 
necessarily be able to act correctly on the WHO guidance, and 
because he needed something concrete to defend himself 
against charges of corruption or incompetence if a pandemic 
broke out in Egypt. 
 
---------------------------------- 
IPR Protection for Pharmaceuticals 
---------------------------------- 
 
5.  (SBU) The Ambassador raised the issue of IPR protection, 
and specifically the ministry's December approval for a 
generic copy of Ely Lilly's innovator drug Zyprexa.  The 
Minister was unfamiliar with the Ely Lilly case, saying that 
he was just beginning to delve into pharmaceutical issues. 
Noting industry complaints about the ministry's 
pharmaceutical marketing approval system, El Gabaly stated 
his intention to fully automate the system to make it more 
efficient, transparent, and capable of protecting 
confidential information submitted by applicants.  He said he 
 
SIPDIS 
would be seeking U.S. assistance for this and other reform 
efforts in the ministry.  Turning to the larger IPR issue, he 
noted the need to strike a balance between guaranteeing the 
viability of Egypt's pharmaceutical industry and protecting 
foreign investors rights.  El Gabaly stated several times 
that Egypt had to honor its IPR obligations, but cautioned 
that he would protect only what the government was legally 
obligated to protect.  As for Ely Lilly, the Minister 
promised to revoke the approval for the local generic copy if 
Lilly wins its appeal. 
 
----------------- 
BIOGRAPHICAL NOTE 
----------------- 
 
6.  (SBU) Hatem Mustafa El Gabaly was appointed Minister of 
Health and Population on December 31 2005.  He was born on 
December 20, 1951, and attended English-language primary and 
secondary schools in Alexandria and Cairo.  El Gabaly 
received his medical training at Cairo University (B.S. 
degree in Medicine and Surgery in 1975; M.Sc. in Diagnostic 
Radiology in 1979; and M.D. in Diagnostic Radiology in 1983), 
and also trained in London and Paris.  Dr. El Gabaly drew on 
his medical background to establish a number of medical 
businesses in Egypt, including a 104-branch polyclinic (the 
largest in the Middle East), the largest private laboratory 
in Egypt, five private medical practices/centers, and a 
specialized surgical hospital in collaboration with the 
Cleveland Clinic Foundation.  Dr. El Gabaly is a member of 
the National Democratic Party's health committee.  Prior to 
becoming Minister of Health and Population, he was Managing 
Director and General Manager of Cairo Radiology Center, 
Deputy Chairman and Managing Director of 6th of October 
Hospital for Cardiac, Thoracic, Vascular and Nervous 
Diseases, and Professor of Diagnostic Radiology at Cairo 
University Medical School.  Dr. El Gabaly speaks excellent 
English.  His operating style is business-like and 
results-oriented, combined with an air of affability that 
makes him an easy interlocutor.  Like other economic reform 
ministers in the Nazif cabinet, Dr. El Gabaly seems 
determined to bring a private-sector sensibility to his 
ministry's operations.  Noting that the Ministry of Health 
and Population employs some 760,000 people ("enough to 
populate Benin"), he hopes to start the transformation of the 
ministry by seeking USAID funding for management training for 
key members of his 4,000-person staff.  Dr. El Gabaly is 
married and has three children. 
 
RICCIARDONE 

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