STORY INLINE POST
Q: Considering Apotex's multinational expansion and the supply chain disruptions of 2020, how does the company ensure continuous supply and operations?
MAR: While COVID-19 limited in-person contact, it forced us to increase our outreach to clients to prepare for shifts in demand, supply and priorities. Over the past year, COVID-19 waves caused demand to fluctuate wildly. Ensuring the availability of products is fundamental. We tried to anticipate negotiations with international suppliers and invested in inventories to be prepared. Last year, COFEPRIS, once again, authorized our Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) that give certainty to our customers in supply continuity and our Quality System.
MR: There were variations in demand for many products for varying reasons, some directly due to COVID-19 and others due to supply failures. Sometimes we had increases in demand that were completely atypical so we had to have enough inventory, even an excess in many cases. Increments in demand for us have been sometimes a result of a failure of supply other laboratories, which allowed us to reach out to patients in a more effective way to cover those necessities.
Q: What are the main benefits for Apotex as an API manufacturer?
MAR: APIs have been key to our development and growth. We have API plants in Mexico and in Canada that supply primarily to our manufacturing sites, which allows us to react faster to market changes. Our vertical integration gives us two main advantages: being the first to develop the APIs and cost benefits from the start. Without vertical integration and close communication, it would be more difficult to ensure availability of affordable products for our patients.
We have seen an increase in demand of over-the-counter (OTC) and public sector products. By integrating API manufacturing and refurbishment, we gained an edge to become government suppliers for affordable products as some current tenders imply a challenge in the fast availability and additional volumes.
Q: Apotex is also betting on biosimilars. How will your supply chain transform to manufacture these products?
MAR: Our Apobiologix division creates biosimilars and we now have three in the market: Grastofil (figlastrim), Lapelga (pegfilgastrim) and Bambevi (bevacizumab). We are a little bit behind in Mexico and Latin America in the development and approval of biosimilars as we are more aligned to the FDA. There is also a wide gap between the US and EU’s biosimilar approval process. While we do not expect to produce biosimilars in our Mexican plant, we will integrate the local supply chain with biosimilars developed and produced in Canada.
Q: How has Apotex used technology to transform its supply chain and how has this benefited the company?
MAR: Apotex is launching a digital transformation and a “smart factory.” Our SAP system is integrated into the whole chain: commercial, finance, production, operation and warehousing systems. On the production side, we are investing in new areas to improve employee communication and to make production more automated, all of which we will launch next year. We will be able to control all parameters of manufacturing directly at the machines. Through these investments, we will be at the forefront of technology.
Q: How does digitalization ensure Apotex can bring its products to Mexican patients?
MR: We have to pay attention to trends and the market’s situation. Being close to the market and to clients allows us to capitalize on long-term increases in demand. Our commercial areas are close to the supply chain and operations, which allows us to anticipate trends.
The pandemic paused the in-person visit model so we developed technological tools to establish faster communication, answer questions and provide information. In Mexico, we developed an app called Aponet for health professionals. In the past couple of months, about 40 percent of doctors have restarted in-person visits but we will continue using the app. We also built a communication strategy that incorporated social media and blogs.
Q: The OTC segment grew significantly last year. How did Apotex take advantage of this growth to further position its products?
MR: The pandemic made people more conscious of the importance of taking care of their health and following health protocols. We created content to raise awareness of the pandemic and other diseases and alongside our commercial partners — pharmaceutical chains and medical services — we created information packages differentiated by region to help patients make informed decisions.
Q: How are you accelerating the introduction of biosimilars to the Mexican market?
MR: Biosimilars are produced from live organisms so regulators in some countries are still working to determine the requirements to approve them. The authorities in Mexico should work to assure the industry is able to register and commercialize generic biosimilars as soon as possible, they need to promote the access to affordable high-quality medicines for all patients, it doesn’t look that it will happen soon. Through the expertise that our Canadian Biologix division has in clinical research and development, Apotex could soon be able to supply this type of products for the Mexican patients.
Apotex manufactures and commercializes generic and innovative drugs in more than 115 countries. It has invested over US$1 billion over the past 10 years to develop innovative product solutions in various categories.