Sandra Ramírez
General Manager
Bristol Myers Squibb Mexico and Colombia
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View from the Top

Equality Promotion Spurs Innovation

By Miriam Bello | Tue, 04/06/2021 - 10:29

Q: Bristol Myers Squibb (BMS) is one of the top pharmaceutical companies investing in R&D globally. How has this translated into better treatments for Mexicans?

A: R&D is one of our fundamental pillars to benefit patients. At BMS, we are pioneers in the introduction of immunotherapy in Mexico, which opens a whole spectrum of treatment opportunities for cancer patients.

This year, BMS is celebrating its 75th anniversary. This long road has been characterized by growth, the contributions we’ve made and the close collaboration with the government and the medical community to benefit as many patients as possible. We are one of the leading R&D pharmaceutical companies in Mexico. In the last five years, we have invested over US$60 million in this area, which is reflected in the more than 40 clinical trials we have in the country. Oncology, immunology, hematology and multiple sclerosis are some of the areas we target, the latter being one of our global priorities.

Q: How has the acquisition of Celgene strengthened BMS’ leadership in science and innovation?

A: This acquisition was completed last year and turned us into a leading biopharmaceutical company with more structure, a wider science focus and an even more robust product portfolio. BMS is now positioned among the Top 5 pharmaceutical companies globally.

Q: How did BMS ensure treatment continuity for non-COVID-19 patients during the pandemic and how did the pandemic impact the company?

A: The personal and professional changes resulting from COVID-19 across the entire world were significant. For health systems, it created greater awareness to improve health provision. However, it also made us realize that health is a privilege not all can access, despite being a right for everyone. The pandemic also accelerated the digital transformation of the sector. For BMS, it was a year of intense learning to ensure treatment for all our patients, which we successfully achieved but not until we created strategies for them to easily access medicines in a timely way. Internally, we prioritized protection of our employees and partners and to ensure their health and, therefore, the health of our patients. 

During the first month of the pandemic, our R&D team was not able to access the institutions where the clinical trials were taking place and this made us significantly change the way BMS operates. We decided to integrate technology across the entire value chain. We strengthened our approach with medical professionals via digital tools and we also changed our training programs to online modalities. Internally, we began improving our data platforms and supply chains. The entire BMS team faced this challenge with resilience and we have learned to overcome crises while growing and delivering solutions for our patients.

Q: How does BMS guarantee access to its innovative therapies?

A: We are aware of our responsibility with the government to supply medicine and secure access to innovation. We work alongside public and private institutions in Mexico, closely and constantly communicating with the medical community and offering education regarding our therapies. This approach is our differentiator. We are working together to build access strategies for Mexican patients.

Q: How representative is Mexico in BMS´ global operations?

A: Mexico is very relevant for the company. Among our strongest contributions is the area of clinical trials. We have 300 patients participating in over 40 clinical trials at 80 sites around the country. We are constantly approaching the institutions we work with to introduce more trials and secure therapy access. Moreover, Mexico is offering increasingly greater access options for patients, which motivates us to continue launching trials and investing in the country. Our responsibility with patients drives us to seek out greater research opportunities, and to promote education for medical professionals and medical students. BMS promotes equal access to therapies to reach those who need our solutions the most or patients who have fewer health access opportunities.

Furthermore, at BMS, we work toward diversification and gender equality. By encouraging an equal and inclusive environment, we are promoting innovation because we are integrating more voices. We created a program called “B-NOW” to bolster the inclusion and participation of women in the company. B-NOW seeks to empower women to reach leadership positions and decision-making roles to foster a cultural transformation and grow as a company. The program has delivered amazing results in our sales and innovation departments.

Q: How is BMS integrating payment by results models to its service offering?

A: This model boosts access to innovative therapies. Many pharmaceutical companies are already using this model in their collaborations with public institutions globally. At BMS, we think this model is ideal to reduce the budget pressure that many health systems experience. The company recognizes its value but there needs to be a standard method to measure the impact of the therapies. These types of models also require a solid legal framework and infrastructure that allows management verifiers, actively involving the national government.

Q: What initiatives is the company integrating to follow up on therapy adherence?

A: We have an innovative project called Vamos Contigo, which is an assistance and patient education program to ensure access to therapies through complementary assets. This program was especially valuable during the pandemic to make sure patients had support from the company to ensure adherence to treatments and also for medicine supply continuity. BMS has a specialized team that makes sure to respect all legal and data protection clauses to guarantee a respectful relationship with the patient and treatment continuity.

Q: As a woman in a leadership position, what has been your growth experience in the healthcare sector?

A: I am a firm promoter of diversity and gender equality in Mexico. I am convinced we have advanced on the subject and that it has permeated many companies, governments and families. BMS, for example, has zero tolerance for harassment or disrespect of personal values. The achievements and opportunities toward gender equality have allowed me to continue growing within BMS and to reach my current position. Despite this, there is still a great deal to accomplish regarding gender equality in Mexico, especially regarding violence against women and violence against the LGBT+ community. I think Mexico still has a challenge and a responsibility to continue promoting inclusion and equality. Everyone has the power to change their reality and to transform their environment.

When I was younger, I became a promoter of protecting women’s rights and I think this is an effort that needs to continue until, eventually, we do not have to do it anymore. I invite women to act in support of other women. This will boost gender equality at all moments of our life, regardless of professional or personal environment. Also, every person is responsible for paving the way to an equal society, no matter their background. Education is fundamental to continue working toward equality.

Q: What are BMS’ priorities for 2021?

A: BMS has more than 10 medicines it will introduce to the market in the next three years. This will be relevant to our future corporate approach. Releasing products for unmet clinical needs is among our priorities. We will promote innovation at all levels of the company to maintain our leadership position and continue delivering solutions. Lastly, we will work toward quality of life for our employees and a healthy balance between personal and professional life.

 

Bristol Myers Squibb is a global biopharmaceutical company focused on discovering, developing, and delivering innovative medicines for patients with serious diseases. The company focuses on oncology, cardiovascular, immunoscience, fibrosis and other therapies.

Photo by:   Bristol Myers Squibb
Miriam Bello Miriam Bello Journalist and Industry Analyst