Cristóbal Thompson
Executive Director
AMIIF
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Battling a Crisis: AMIIF’s Actions to Tackle COVID-19

By Miriam Bello | Thu, 11/05/2020 - 10:38

Q: How did AMIIF help to increase access to innovative medicines in 2019-2020?

A: In the past, only pharmaceutical research companies were members of AMIIF. Now, companies involved in healthcare research, such as medical devices manufacturers, are joining the association. This makes AMIIF a better representative of healthcare innovation leaders.

Last year, as part of our strategic process, we developed our 2020-2030 plan that aligns with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, in particular with poverty eradication and reducing preventable non-communicable diseases by over 30 percent. While political changes in Mexico have forced us to rearrange some things, we tend to set a long-term vision and strategic plans to achieve sustainable goals.

In 2020, AMIIF established three strategic axes. The first is related to the value of innovation and its impact on improving the patient’s health. The second is focused on improving access to innovative treatments for more patients. Our third goal is to consolidate AMIIF as an ethical actor that contributes to the national economy through a social agenda.

Q: What would be your recommendations to address the medicine shortage the country is facing?

A: Since the beginning of the current administration, we were quick to open a permanent dialogue and alongside other industry associations we created a working group to understand the changes coming to the sector. This helped us to prepare to collaborate with proposals to improve processes and seek to incorporate as much innovation as possible to achieve a positive impact on patient health. We are also members of CCE, which helped us bring to the discussion table the value and importance of innovation, innovative research models and a proper regulatory environment.

To ensure access to medications and ensure supply, APIs, raw materials and continuous production, pharmaceutical sector planning is needed at the local and international levels. Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, we have made sure to have a strategic plan to provide patients with related treatments while still offering regular treatments to patients who have other health issues. Pandemic and non-pandemic health care are enormous challenges that require collaborations between public and private sectors to solve new problems and improve ongoing situations; the continuous dialogue required to do so is a tool we have maintained all over this year.

Q: What will be the implications of the government’s plan to import medicines that do not have sanitary registration?

A: Our main concern is the health of Mexicans. In Mexico, to obtain a sanitary registry, rigorous processes are followed to verify the quality, safety and efficacy of medical supplies. Maintaining those high standards is critical. From the AMIIF, we have always insisted that people are the center of the health system and that quality should be the organizing principle of any proposal aimed at improving the health and well-being of the Mexican population

Q: How is AMIIF incorporating social issues to its agenda?

A: A couple of years ago, we decided that as a sector, we would always be committed to giving back to society much of what it has given us. This has led us to participate in programs with the Red Cross, such as the promotion of healthy habits to institute a preventive healthcare culture starting at a very young age. We have also approached primary education institutions with programs that have worked in Europe and that have the potential to be adapted to our context. AMIIF also work with Save the Children on a study to follow the first 1,000 days of children after birth, because this period is crucial for the future development of a person’s health.

In 2019, AMIIF joined the government’s initiative Jóvenes Construyendo el Futuro (Youth Building the Future). At first, we were hesitant but after working with five people, we were convinced of the benefits and effectiveness in incorporating youngsters to the workforce.

Additionally, AMIIF gave support to Clínica Esquipulas, which is a project that brings healthcare services to indigenous people in Chiapas. Thanks to its alliances, the project has attracted more participants and needed to increase its space. Joining efforts with this successful project gives us a great deal of satisfaction and reflects our social commitment and true desire to positively impact people’s health.

With the pandemic, we wanted to help SMEs, because we know they are a key contributor to the country’s economy. We also wanted to help the medical staff fighting on the frontlines against the pandemic. With these two aims AMIIF created a strategic plan where 15,300 dinners were donated to doctors, nurses, caretakers, cleaning, security and administrative personnel of the INCMNSZ and the Dr. Manuel Gea González General Hospital, from the end of April to the end of June. To help SMEs, we ordered the meals from local companies that have around 50 employees, meaning that 50 families could also benefit.

Moreover, on May 12, we signed an agreement with a group of psychiatrists who wanted to support the medical community, as the crisis has also impacted mental health. These specialists offered to donate their time to support fellow medical professionals and with the help of UNAM, we were able to create an online platform to offer consultations.

Q: What are the priorities for AMIIF in 2020?

A: Our goal is to continue protecting our people. Their health is our top priority. Secondly, we want to keep demonstrating our leadership by contributing with healthcare solutions. This includes making available our information. Having reliable information is important, especially during these challenging times when there has been a great deal of misinformation.

I would also like to capitalize on the experience of the whole world in the face of the pandemic to see what Mexico can further contribute, what works and what does not. I think that having that experience as a guideline makes us more capable of successfully confronting the crisis (and future crisis) and also allows us to share our own successes with others.

In March, we celebrated our 70th anniversary. When AMIIF was created, life expectancy in Mexico was 49 years; today, it is 75.2 years. Many factors explain this growth, but the innovative pharmaceutical sector had a significant impact on this, so we are really proud of how far we have come. AMIIF is a member of IFPMA, FIFARMA and soon we will have an agreement with St. George University in Australia. All of this strengthens our international agenda and therefore our local presence and initiatives.

Q: The pharmaceutical industry is key during the COVID-19 fight. What is AMIIF doing to support the sector?

A: The current efforts are unprecedented. The industry has been speaking of the importance of innovation and clinical research and we wanted to increase our investment in this area. For the first time in history, companies have opened their libraries of pharmaceutical assets to start combining all that information and previous experience related to R&D treatments. This is incredibly beneficial as it reduces times for approval because there are previous advancements. This action has incredibly accelerated the vaccine process and has put the world in a much more advantageous position.

None of AMIIF’s member’s plants have stopped working during the pandemic as medicine supply must continue. Moreover, no COVID-19 cases have been reported at these plants. The preventive measures and attention that companies are giving to their teams have been remarkable, both inside and outside the plants.

Many AMIIF members are global leaders in the vaccine race and participating in trials on existent medicines that could work as a treatment against COVID-19. There have been many alliances between diverse actors, academic institutions, companies, foundations and NGOs and more than 3000 clinical trials are ongoing.

It is not about who gets the vaccine first but how we will get to that discovery together. Through global efforts and collaboration, we will find a solution to overcome this crisis. In the future, this kind of effort can be incredibly beneficial to solve problems that represent a burden for the whole world. For the healthcare sector, could maybe lead to a much more efficient system, as well as better-equipped hospitals and a better-prepared industry.

 

The Mexican Association of Pharmaceutical Research Industries (AMIIF) represents more than 60 national and international pharmaceutical companies committed to the development of new medicines and therapeutic solutions

Miriam Bello Miriam Bello Journalist and Industry Analyst