Rafael Suárez
Director General
Ferring Pharmaceuticals
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View from the Top

Good Growth Potential for Nice Products

Sat, 09/05/2015 - 12:21

Q: What is the main focus of Ferring’s activities in Mexico and how do these support your aims of improving healthcare for the population?

A: Ferring Pharmaceuticals has been in Mexico since 1997, and our products are well recognized and positioned in the field of obstetrics. Our philosophy is “people come first,” and that applies to patients, doctors, and employees. The focus of our obstetrics products is the reduction of maternal mortality. Physicians need effective medicines for the management of life-threatening situations. Additionally, we provide fertility products to clinics. Forming a family is something that many of these patients have been trying to achieve for years, so it is very motivating for us to help them realize their dreams. Furthermore, we have a social responsibility program called Bebé en casa, which is a website that helps couples that cannot have a baby and that have financial constraints. Patients fill out a form and go to the clinic and if they comply with certain characteristics they are provided with discounts on fertility medicines. This program started three years ago, and is now implemented in 20 clinics. More than 70 babies have been born under this project. Another social responsibility project is a fertility project called Proteger. Female cancer is a health concern right now for our government, so when a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer, before she receives chemotherapy, she can go to one of the participating clinics to get her eggs collected and frozen, and when she is cancer-free she can go back to the clinic and become pregnant.

Q: After moving from Merck to Ferring Pharmaceuticals, what were your main objectives?

A: Ferring produces high-quality drugs that are very well positioned in the European market as well as in other countries, and the company has very good projections, which represents an opportunity for me to contribute to the company’s development and growth. I was given the opportunity to take a General Manager position, which has allowed me to manage the manufacturing plant in Lerma, the State of Mexico as well as the commercial office. It took me a year to understand and restructure the business. When I started we had three business units and now we only have two, focusing on both the private and public sector. In the second year we expanded our sales to hospitals by strengthening our sales force. We realized that we needed to allocate more resources to this as well as to innovation in digital tools. We provided our sales representatives with tablets, materials, and developed websites, and electronic materials to cover physicians. In this third year we are focusing on consolidating expansion. The results of the first two years have been good and we are building the basis for the future, as well as looking for opportunities to grow either organically or abroad in the Latin American region. We are launching products for obstetrics and for gastroenterology.

Q: Does Ferring engage in any local R&D activities, and what could be done to attract more research?

A: Ferring Pharmaceuticals has many research centers across the globe, but not in Mexico. However, we do conduct phase III clinical trials in Mexico, so Mexican patients are also part of our R&D and innovation activities. The more patients we get to participate in studies in Mexico, the better. AMIIF recently signed an agreement with IMSS to accelerate the process for conducting clinical trials in the IMSS, which will promote growth of the clinical studies industry and innovation in Mexico. Moreover, when a drug obtains market approval, it still takes several years to become available to the public sector due to the pharmacoeconomic data required by the different institutions and as a result the number of molecules approved by the General Health Council is still lagging. Therefore, improvement in this regard is essential to leveraging innovation in the country.

Q: Mexico’s attentions on biotechnology are steadily increasing – how does the country’s development pace in this regard compare to other markets?

A: The growth of the biotechnology sector in Mexico is evident in the amount of innovative products that multi- national companies are launching in the country, which is comparable to levels in other markets. Additionally, more local companies are opening extensive manufacturing plants in the country. The biotechnology business is a hot topic from a regulatory viewpoint today, especially at COFEPRIS. We have to make sure that all products, whether innovative or biosimilar, comply with the requirements to guarantee safety and efficacy.

Q: COFEPRIS has improved many of its processes to bring more products to the marketplace – what have been the practical implications for companies like Ferring?

A: COFEPRIS has worked very hard not only for the biotechnology sector, but also for improving the process of drug registration in general. In the past, it took one year for a drug to be approved. This process was recently accelerated, and a new molecule can now be approved within 60 days. Regarding traditional molecules, they have to make sure that processes with time delays do not get reintroduced when the five-year administration period of COFEPRIS comes to an end. COFEPRIS has developed new communication channels to improve processes, which must be maintained over time. As for biopharmaceuticals, studies to prove their efficacy and safety must be complete.

Q: Do you see the need for greater convergence of the public and private sectors?

A: The public sector is working on implementing universal healthcare coverage and its needs to ensure that all diseases are covered. For instance, CAUSES is the catalogue of services and products available for patients insured by the Seguro Popular, and it includes medical attention for complex diseases such as prostate cancer. A greater convergence of the public and private sector is needed to improve access to healthcare services, and private hospitals will play a role in helping the government in the short-term. This process obviously takes time and we need to figure out how best to support such integration.

Q: What main opportunities have you identified for your growth?

A: The obstetric sector is growing. Working with the public sector is an opportunity for us in order to make sure that patients have access to our products. In the private sector, our products are very well positioned, and there is a huge room for growth. We have recently launched some new products and we are still in the learning curve phase with physicians who are using our products. Additionally, we want to consolidate our expertise in our four key therapeutic areas. Even though Mexico is an emerging market, it is not growing that much in general terms. However, for niche products we expect good growth. We are expected to develop more partnerships, and aim to launch more products into the market. In terms of the region Brazil is a larger market and will see more growth, however Mexico constitutes a close second.