Esteban Abad
Vice President and Head of Upper Latin America
Glenmark
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View from the Top

Innovation Key to Remaining Competitive in the Generics Industry

By Miriam Bello | Wed, 10/14/2020 - 17:36

Q: How has the demand for your products behaved during 2019-2020?

A: We have a global best-case in Mexico with one of our respiratory products, which is a combination of our top-selling antihistamine and our top-selling antileukotriene. This combination is unique in Mexico and has enjoyed a solid performance in the country because it tackles the root causes of allergic rhinitis. This is a prescription-only product, so the role of doctors is key here. However, the results are evident and doctors are confident in prescribing it.

As a respiratory product powerhouse, we are constantly innovating to keep building the company. Glenmark is focused on creating new formulas that can be a watershed for patient treatment, such as that previously mentioned. By September, we are expecting to introduce a differentiated product for allergic rhinitis that is already awaiting COFEPRIS approval. We are investing in digital tools that will allow us to have direct contact with doctors and be able to communicate and launch this product in the market. While this marketing strategy may be cheaper, we do not know how effective it will be. On the bright side, physicians in Mexico, like those in the US, are very open to trying new products as long as they provide evidence.

Q: How does Glenmark take advantage of the highly competitive and fast-growing market for generics in Mexico?

A: Our strategy is to create a differentiator for each product we launch. Many companies can participate in the market but not all of them have a strong scientific team to dabble in new formulas or combinations. For example, India is well-known for its scientific and chemistry potential in healthcare. To build these capabilities takes time and a great deal of resources, which we already have. If companies here were willing to invest in the country in that sense, Mexico could become an important player like India. However, the US, the biggest market for the country, is not interested in reformulated combinations because the FDA does not take a positive view of these. Their market is strictly ruled by new molecules, which could be a reason why Mexico has not fully developed in the area.

Q: What is Mexico’s potential as an API manufacturer?

A: It has been said that Mexico could become an API producer but it is not that simple. While we might have manufacturing capabilities, there needs to be a specific demand to fully develop them as the infrastructure required for a single API is not cheap. It ends up being easier to import from already expert countries. For Mexico to become an API producer, demand would need to be global, such as India’s. Only then would it be a profitable business.

Q: What has been the impact of the pandemic on your product demand in Latin America and Mexico?

A: In Mexico, we have been facing a drop in sales. Around March, most therapeutic products, especially for respiratory conditions, grew in demand and companies started to build inventory to prepare for when COVID-19 arrived to Mexico. In April and May, the number of patient visits to doctors’ offices fell and the number of pharmacy prescriptions decreased, causing our sales volumes to drop significantly. In the end, companies ended up with a great deal of inventory but not enough patients to sell to.

Our stronger business lines are respiratory and dermatology. Especially in the latter segment, these are not critical illnesses that people tend to prioritize. However, I think we have already seen the worst of it and we expect sales in Mexico to recover soon, but not quickly enough to put us back at pre-COVID-19 levels. The branded generic industry is better placed in terms of recovery because of the more accessible prices it manages.

Q: What are your near-term goals for Glenmark Latin America?

A: While the drop in sales has not affected prices, the peso’s devaluation might. The COVID-19 crisis will continue to impact the economy in the coming months so our priority is to reduce our operational costs and try to boost sales as soon as possible.

As members of the pharmaceutical industry, we are used to face-to-face interaction with physicians to showcase our drugs. Now, our business has momentarily transitioned to digital and we need new sales plans to promote our products. We have been trying different approaches to cover this but as we are still learning and testing.

 

Glenmark is headquartered in Mumbai, India, and was founded in 1977 as a manufacturer of generic drugs, branded generics, biologics and active pharmaceutical ingredients. In 2009, the company arrived to Mexico focusing on pneumology, oncology and dermatology treatments

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Miriam Bello Miriam Bello Journalist and Industry Analyst