Carlos López Patán
Director General
View from the Top

Evidence-Based Personalized Obesity Treatment

Wed, 09/09/2015 - 17:20

Q: Productos Medix was founded in 1956 – how has it evolved over the years to be competitive?

A: Productos Medix started as a family company, the evolution of which can be divided into three phases. Firstly, we were a company who imported and commercialized pharmaceutical products. Secondly, we acquired a medicine control-release technology from the US and we adapted it to the Mexican market in order to produce it here. Lastly, we expanded and consolidated our manufacturing plant on the site where we are currently based in adherence with the requirements established in the 1980s. After the death of the company’s founder, a process of corporate institutionalization was initiated that allowed us to meet our objectives in terms of sales, effectiveness and growth. In the final phase we also incorporated investment funds in order to support various projects. The company currently has several product lines including specialized products to treat overweight and obese patients, and the illnesses associated with this. We sell products that provide added value for our patients.

Q: What strategy was behind the decision to focus on overweight and obese patients as your target demographic?

A: We began our fight against overweight and obesity in the 1950s, and in fact we were pioneers in classifying obesity as an illness rather than an aesthetic issue as the rest of the world had. As a result, obesity did not feature on the agenda of any major institution because it was not a point of concern for the medical community. Due to being recognized as an illness in the 1980s, obesity is a young disease which has seen a rapid growth in the last 30 years with a number of contributory factors such as the increase in food diversity and availability, as well as the increased prevalence of urbanization and sedentary lifestyles. Productos Medix has a wide range of experience in this area as well as a consolidated portfolio of solutions for the increasingly concerning problem of overweight and obesity, not only in Mexico but globally. For many companies in the health industry, obesity is merely a means to increasing sales volume, whereas we see it as our mission and purpose to help alleviate the burden it causes.

Q: Mexico is facing a crisis in which 73% of the population is either overweight or obese. What is your position to tackle this issue? 

A: The gravity of the obesity epidemic is increasingly worrying when considering that childhood obesity exceeds 30%. Fortunately, the Mexican government is now tackling this problem through the Sectorial Program for Healthcare. The government, private institutions and other interested parties have launched successful campaigns which has increased public awareness levels of obesity. However, identification of the problem must be followed by appropriate solutions and this is what we are doing. Great global efforts are being made, but it still is not enough. Too often, the government is considered to be responsible for mitigating the problem, but all parties must share the responsibility because this situation has a considerable social impact in terms of productivity and economy, not least because health care spending has increased significantly. Collaborative efforts are required to combat what we call the “tsunami of obesity.” As a result, at Medix, we study the causes of obesity in real terms in order to develop effective solutions. Focusing on one solution alone is not enough, so the employment of different tools is crucial for the fundamental management of this ailment.

Q: What are the most important strategies for managing obesity?

A: Firstly, treatment for obesity must be personalized. There is no magic solution for everyone, and as a result treatment must be tailored on a case by case basis. Diagnostics are essential in implementing the correct treatment. There are some general causes of obesity such as a high calorie diet and a sedentary lifestyle but there are also specific factors unique to the patient that must be identified. Moreover, familiarization with the reasons patients have for losing weight is crucial for providing support. Sometimes, patients lose weight without having solved the root issue which caused the initial weight gain, and in this way we see it as part of our duty to help them create completely new habits which have a positive impact on their lifestyles. Aesthetic factors are common in motivating people to lose weight and we support weight loss under all circumstances, as long as it is done in a healthy way. Our protocols for losing weight are based on science, in contrast with some treatments that only cause the patient to lose muscle mass or water weight instead of fat. Many diets do not have a scientific basis and are not tailored for individual patient needs. On the other hand, patients require support to retain motivation in following the diet and it is also necessary for them to recognize and acknowledge the wellbeing that the adoption of healthy habits brings. They are not looking for a magic pill, they are actively seeking a long-term solution . At Medix we provide the tools and the experts for managing the various contributory factors to obesity, and as a result we take into account age, gender, family environment, working conditions, genetics and psychological problems. Facilitation of access to these integral individualized solutions is important in order to significantly impact society.

Q: What is your most common way of supporting patients?

A: As a pharmaceutical company that specializes in producing weight loss medication, we depend largely on distribution through pharmacies as well as the health care professionals who prescribe our products. In this way, we have a sales team that liaises with doctors to provide information about our treatments and training on the fundamental management of obesity. Very little time is spent studying overweight and obesity in university programs, and as a result we need more training in order to improve the management of the condition in Mexico. In this respect, we offer 140 hour courses for doctors, nurses, nutritionists and other healthcare professionals. Medix’s strategic alliances with other companies, institutions, government bodies and civil associations are essential for generating greater impact among the population. With respect to public institutions, we provide technology and medical equipment, and we offer free medical attention to those with fewer resources. Also, through a program called Empresarial Crusade against Overweight and Obesity, we visit public institutions and companies, providing free medical services such as diagnostics and mapping of individual contributory factors with the aim of increasing productivity and decreasing levels of absenteeism and we are able to support them in implementing and maintaining healthy eating habits. Between 2012 and 2015, we have visited 970 companies and treated almost 110,000 patients.

Obesity is difficult to treat because the patients do not feel pain until chronic degenerative diseases develop and we are determined to combatting the problem from all angles by working as a team with all relevant parties. Our approach with authorities, patients, and other relevant stakeholders gives us the chance to understand the diseases and tackle them accordingly.

Q: In what way do you consider Productos Medix to be an innovative company and what collaborations do you have with academia to carry out research projects?

A: Medix has developed CIDEFARMA, an investigation center that generates innovations in the field of control release medication and combined products. For example, Dialicels is one of our projects and is designed for delayed-release. Thanks to this method, our combined products have a superior effectiveness than the patient would gain from the individual administration of its active ingredients. In this way, we offer unique products that are not classified as generics. On the other hand, we offer courses that have been certified by UNAM and UAM and we are supporting and sponsoring ILSO, the objective of which is to investigate, compile and distribute information about obesity in Mexico and Latin America. Additionally, we are sponsoring various research projects belonging to the National Institutes of Respiratory Diseases (INER) and the National Institute of Genomic Medicine (INMEGEN) on the efficacy and safety of various active ingredients on the genetics of the Mexican population and the ways in which the medications can be effective. In fact, it is the first pharmacogenetic study related to obesity in the Mexican population and it is expected to produce powerful results with respect to more effective treatment of this illness for Mexicans.

Q: Finally, what expansion plans do you have?

A: We are looking to increase our sales to US$126 million in 2017. Productos Medix has a market share of 45% in Mexico and our closest competitor owns 14%. We want to consolidate our services through a solutions portfolio that is both fundamental and personalized in order to address the issues of overweight and obesity. We are interested in collaborating with experts in the IT industry to develop innovative apps to support our patients with their goals. We are also interested in further expanding our export network to Colombia, Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Chile and Uruguay. We use Latin American distributors and we have a subsidiary in Argentina. Similarly, we have associations with a company in Brazil to perform an initial review of the Brazilian market and society. In the US we have 20 Medifast clinics in Texas and we are distributing a supplement aimed at the Hispanic population through large chain stores. We want to bring our fundamental model to other parts of the world, but first it is important to understand the environment in terms of business, economy, legal framework and regulatory systems in order to develop the best strategy in each one. Establishing relationships and collaborations with local companies will give us the required knowledge as well as various competitive advantages.