Marco Ruggiero
General Manager
Chiesi México
View from the Top

Focus Should Be on Total Treatment Cost Not Drug Cost

Wed, 06/05/2019 - 18:30

Q: How is the company advancing with its neonatology and respiratory solutions?
A: We closed 2018 with a 25 percent growth, mainly driven by our special neonatology care line CUROSURF. After 15 years, this product still grew at a 17 percent rate in 2018 compared to 2017. This has allowed us to further penetrate the Mexican market and to persuade doctors to use our treatment for premature babies affected by respiratory distress syndrome. This treatment has helped save countless lives and ensured that babies have a chance to have normal lives after their premature birth.
Q: How do you intend to grow beyond your position as the third-largest pharmaceutical player in the respiratory field?
A: Our respiratory line enjoyed rapid growth of 36 percent in 2018. Having launched our first product in Mexico in 2013, we are doing quite well. Yet, there is still a great deal of room for improvement and to strengthen our position compared to larger competitors like GSK and AstraZeneca. We will continue to invest and expand our staff presence in the country.
In the area of neonatology, one major barrier is that our treatment CUROSURF has not been included in IMSS’ medication registry, which is the largest public health insurance institution in the country but still has the very strong conviction that it should buy the cheapest medications. Our treatment may have a higher price but ultimately, because of its greater effectiveness, is actually going to reduce costs across the whole treatment course. Considering only the cost of the medicine is wrong. Treatments should count the number of medicinal packages needed for the duration of the treatment, as well as costs related to the patient’s journey toward improvement. IMSS’ new board should come to the realization that real savings cannot be achieved through procurement but through an integral analysis of the total cost of treatment. Right now, the institute is effectively buying the wrong product and spending more than they should. Unfortunately, there is no indication that there will be a change in direction. As a result, some of the most innovative therapies are still only accessible through private healthcare.
Q: What have been Chiesi’s major successes and challenges in COPD treatments?
A: We have an innovative triple-treatment therapy for COPD, which we launched across the entire American continent, and first in Mexico. This was a major source of pride for us but also for our Mexican partners in hospitals and clinics. One of the main issues related to COPD is the lack of awareness about the disease, which often results in misdiagnosis. Doctors continue to prescribe dated single-agent drugs that can provide relief during the moment of crisis but that do not address the inflammatory chronic nature of the disease. In other cases, patients are given antibiotics, which are completely unsuitable. To counter these misconceptions, we have our own program to raise awareness of the disease. This includes an alliance with two pharmacy chains where information is provided through consults with patients. Unfortunately, just as with CUROSURF, our COPD treatment has not been included in IMSS’ registry and remains inaccessible to a large portion of the population.
Q: How important is it for Chiesi to expand its portfolio in new treatment areas?
A: Part of our strategy for the last five years has been to create a third pillar in our product offering focused on rare diseases. Hopefully, the regulatory process in Mexico will enable us to bring it to the market as soon as possible. There are no therapies in Mexico for something like Leber’s Hereditary Optic Neuropathy. Therefore, it is in the patients’ interest to increase access to these treatments. Although the patient group with rare diseases is limited, it is society’s duty to look after them. More often than not, these patients are neglected by medical institutions, the government and pharmaceutical companies. This particular treatment can completely cure this condition. Even if there are only 500 people who need it, it is still worth it.