Irma Egoavil
Director General
Ferring Pharmaceuticals Mexico
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View from the Top

Diverse Niches Providing Growth

Thu, 09/07/2017 - 10:13

Q: Ferring operates in many areas, some quite specialized. Which are the most relevant for the Mexican market?

A: Our urology portfolio contains a product aimed at hormonal dependent prostatic cancer, an antagonist that enables fast and safe disease control without increasing cardiovascular risk, a relevant factor for the Mexican population. In addition, in August 2017 we will be launching a product for the treatment of patients with erectile dysfunction. Although it would be a first-line treatment, it will be particularly useful for patients with metabolic syndrome, obesity or cardiovascular disease because this segment is at risk if systemic treatment options are used.

Q: What is Ferring’s most interesting project at this time?

A: Ferring is not a Big Pharma nor an orphan drugs manufacturer but a specialized company attending niche pathologies. We are becoming a more technology-oriented company, which is due to the areas in which we work. For example, we manage a portfolio for patients with chronic intestinal disease, which is not so frequent, is difficult to diagnose and patients need a lot of follow-up during the treatment. We have been providing digital tools to provide such follow-ups for the past three years.

Q: How can technological innovations help patients?

A: The way they work varies according to therapeutic areas. For example, we have an app for patients with inflammatory bowel disease that provides information on the different stages of the disease and the reasons behind its progression. The main issue for these patients is that even though the disease may be controlled, there could be a specific event that pushes it to another stage. We provide support and teach them to identify symptoms. Another program helps patients with prostatic cancer track the disease properly, providing them with access to prostatic antigen testing. Ferring also runs a program called BB en casa (Baby at home) that helps patients with a fertility need who do not have the purchasing power to access treatment. The major problem in reproductive health is that all costs are paid for fully out-of-pocket, so not all patients are able to undergo treatment. As world leaders in reproductive care, through our Proteger (Protect) program we work with INCan and other associations to identify and support female patients who have cancer and could potentially have a future reproductive need. Our program enables them to protect their ovules and thus ensure future possibilities of getting pregnant. We work mostly with breast cancer patients because it is a disease that can be cured if detected early enough.

Q: What internal and external factors have contributed to the company’s growth?

A: Ferring has enjoyed success in the private and the public sectors due to our portfolio and because we are committed to helping people become parents and to keeping mothers and babies healthy, from conception to birth. Over one-third of our investment in R&D targets innovative treatments in reproductive and maternal health but we are also passionate about making a difference to people’s health and quality of life through our work. Something we are working on is diversification. We supply to 18 countries in the region, which has also helped us to grow and we have striven to differentiate ourselves and bring products here that could have an impact on the population.

Q: Which products will you bring to Mexico?

A: We will be launching three new products in the short to medium term. The first is the treatment for erectile dysfunction. The others are focused on fertility. One is a biotech product that is a recombinant treatment, different from what is on the market because it enables doctors to tailor doses to a patient’s specific needs. The other is a treatment that makes it easier for a fertilized egg to attach to the uterus at the beginning of pregnancy. This treatment has an innovative application and dissolution method that supports the proper absorption of the drug, which differentiates it from other intravaginal alternatives. This will be on the market in September 2017.

Q: What challenges do you face when bringing innovation to Mexico and how do you overcome those?

A: Sometimes, access to innovation in Mexico is not easy and can take a long time. Even if innovation can deliver added-value, it must be proven. Adoption of innovation can also be challenging as it sometimes means that the therapeutic conduct has to be changed. For example, our new erectile dysfunction product will meet an unmet need and for it to be effective we have to work with physicians and medical associations to ensure it is used in the right way and prescribed for the right patients. The testing and dosage adjustment for the recombinant personalized fertility treatment that we will be launching will be different from current alternatives in the market and will require us to support physicians as they adopt the product.

Q: Ferring entered a partnership with Metabogen to produce probiotics for pregnant women. What role do alliances play for the company?

A: Alliances are important. However, Ferring is a private company focused on innovation and clinical research and just like all companies we need to be selective in this area, allying with those that could help maximize our business. The investment required to put a product on the market is huge, sometimes over US$1 billion, and the likelihood of success is limited. Companies that are good at R&D in a specific area can benefit from these alliances.

Q: There is a lack of reliable, updated information on health in Mexico. Is there an opportunity to use your apps to provide a database?

A: That is not so easy. We can extract some epidemiological data but the aim of our digital tools is to support doctors with patient management and to understand diseases. Institutions are becoming more open to collaboration so perhaps there may be an opportunity to explore an alternative like this in the future. If we want to be successful as a country and society in changing Mexico’s healthcare indicators we have to find ways to make alliances with public and private players.

Q: What will your priorities be for 2017 other than launching those three new products?

A: We will have to maintain our leadership in the area of fertility. We closed 2016 with over 60 percent market share in Mexico’s fertility segment. We have to keep doing what has worked and also find new ways to support our business over the long term. There is an opportunity with our product for prostatic cancer to help more patients at an institutional level, so we need to work with public institutions to show the benefits this hormonal treatment could provide without increasing cardiovascular risk and to ensure it is fully reimbursed. We will also work to maximize our digital platforms to ensure that everyone who can benefit from them has access.