Arturo de la Rosa
General Manager
AbbVie Mexico
/
View from the Top

Strong Commitment in the Face of Crisis: AbbVie

By Miriam Bello | Wed, 11/25/2020 - 09:26

Q: In which areas is AbbVie focused in terms of its R&D goals?

A: We are pioneers and leaders in the field of autoimmune diseases, which have a wide range of symptomatology and can manifest differently depending on the patient. Most of our R&D investment targets new therapies for these chronic degenerative diseases. We are always looking to discover promising new immunology pathways and targets that is inspired and guided by those whose lives are touched by immune-mediated diseases.

Oncology is another priority area. We have grown our oncology and hematology portfolio, focusing on blood cancers, such as lymphomas, leukemias and solid tumors. Cancer prevalence remains latent despite all the scientific advances made in the field. With the population living longer, the possibility of developing cancer increases. Moreover, not all cancers behave the same, and they react differently to treatment. Therefore, specialized care and personalized treatments can make a great difference for patients.

AbbVie is also investing strongly in neurology. We have developed many solutions for Parkinson’s disease, for example. The acquisition of Allergan and its therapeutic botulin toxin solutions also has strengthened our neurology area considerably, making it much more relevant to the company.

The fourth investment area we focus on is virology. We are pioneers in HIV and hepatitis C. In fact, we have a cure for hepatitis C. Our R&D area continues to invest in finding a functional cure for hepatitis C and a functional cure for HIV.

As a result of the acquisition of Allergan, we have also destined a significant investment to ophthalmology because we have inherited much of the company’s previous research on the subject. AbbVie is strongly committed to raising awareness on the subject because one of every seven people in the world has some type of visual deficiency and 90 percent of these conditions are preventable. Even among older people, it is key to highlight how their well-being can be impacted by a visual deficiency, which can lead to other ailments or conditions.

Q: How does AbbVie Mexico ensure quick access to AbbVie’s most recent global launches?

A: When a company finds a cure, treatment or therapy, the goal is always to give people complete access to it. Due to the type of critical diseases that AbbVie focuses on, treatments can involve a considerable investment and the likelihood of people being able to spend out of pocket is limited. AbbVie has understood this reality, which is why, parallel to our clinical trials on a drug, we invest time and money in understanding the pharmaco-economics and the economic benefits that this drug can bring to the population.

In Mexico, when a company submits a product for inclusion in the country’s basic table of medicines, it has to demonstrate that the inclusion of this innovative medicine, because of its safety and effectiveness, can compensate the cost of the drug through its direct effects and through a reduction in further costs related to hospitalization, mortality or adverse effects.

Explaining this is not simple, which is why we are working on creating a close relationship with the government to understand their metrics and goals. As a company, we are interested in establishing a close relationship with the government to offer a solution that will overcome the actual challenges of the healthcare sector. We go beyond the economic savings to also presenting our expertise on the management of difficult diseases to offer an improvement and add value to the government’s approach to health.

Half of the effectiveness of a treatment depends on the patient’s adherence to it. Otherwise, the therapies are useless. Because of this, AbbVie supports the government’s preventive healthcare campaigns, raising awareness regarding adherence to treatment and promoting healthy lifestyles. Additionally, we approach hospitals individually to assist them with disease management. Through scientific data, hospitals can define the different levels of therapies they can use for different patient profiles to be able to guarantee the best outcome while minimizing costs. Maximizing public investment is one of AbbVie’s commitments because we know it is impossible to ignore the needs and limitations of that sector. Instead of simply offering our new discoveries for sale, we offer a reason for their introduction, which is the result of our R&D supported by an economic and social study that has a structured logic that will help the government provide better therapies and maximize its resources.

Access to innovative medicines can be difficult, but the cost does not compare to that of neglected ailments. Moreover, neglecting therapies denies the right to healthcare and risks a person’s quality of life. AbbVie has joined efforts with public institutions on hepatitis C because during our research in Mexico, we discovered that some of the areas that had major concentrations of cases did not have certified clinics to treat the disease. We worked with the institutions to help it achieve that certification and ensure the patients’ right to access those therapies.

Q: What releases are AbbVie global and AbbVie Mexico working on?

A: In Mexico, we are working on two revolutionary treatments for autoimmune diseases: one is for rheumatoid arthritis and the other is for psoriasis. These new products have a comparative study with the treatments we had for those diseases prior to these discoveries and results show a significant increase in efficacy against the previous standard.

Globally, we are developing a treatment for the autoimmune disease atopic dermatitis. This devastating disease affects patients at a very young age, causing a painful itch through the whole-body to the point of preventing sleep for up to three to four nights per week.

Q: How is AbbVie contributing to mitigating the impact of the pandemic globally and in Mexico?

A: AbbVie Mexico decided to donate through FunSalud, as its initiatives were successfully coordinating the efforts from the public and private sectors, and allocating resources to help Mexico face the pandemic. 

AbbVie Mexico wanted to go beyond monetary donations. We decided to also offer FunSalud the support of AbbVie’s staff to participate in the coordinated forums it was organizing among decision-makers to fight COVID-19. This allowed AbbVie to collaborate with innovative solutions.

Internally, AbbVie has worked to ensure the safety and health of all collaborators. Members who can work from home have been doing it for months now and people at the field are following the highest sanitary standards. In addition to our efforts on physical health, AbbVie Mexico has a program to address mental health that promotes virtual initiatives. Furthermore, we also collaborate with doctors and much of the donations we give to FunSalud reach them. However, we also wanted to respond to the particular requests we have received from some doctors that trust our company.

At a global level, AbbVie’s commitment to help mitigate the global crisis can be seen through our initiative with one of our drugs to treat HIV. In the past, we have received anecdotal information from doctors about the helpfulness of this medicine in treating severe cases of SARS and MERS. When the outbreak of SARS-CoV-2 began in China, the government started to use this drug due to the information on its past effectiveness and it also decided to run clinical trials on the drug to determine its potential as a treatment. When WHO began clinical drug trials to find possible treatments, this therapy was on the list. When AbbVie found out about this, we responded to every drug donation request we received. Moreover, the company decided it would not profit from a global crisis and therefore, AbbVie eliminated all patents on this drug worldwide so that IP would not be a barrier to the supply of this treatment if approved by sanitary authorities.

Even though this medicine, among many other drugs, did not prove effective against COVID-19, AbbVie’s initiative and gesture of donating its product and eliminating patents on the drug was huge and speaks of the commitment of the company to the global healthcare sector.

Q: What are the near-term goals for AbbVie Mexico?

A: AbbVie is actively working toward the complete integration of Allergan. Allergan’s staff and practices remain but the goal is to integrate the company under the same culture and work principles. We also want to continue attracting the best talent. So far, I am convinced that our team has the most competent people in the industry and we can reflect that in our product and practices. We want to be able to fully communicate AbbVie’s value proposal to attract exceptional leaders and bright minds to guarantee the continuity of AbbVie’s vision through the generations.

 

AbbVie is a research-oriented biopharmaceutical company. Through R&D, it tackles diseases that are difficult to cure by creating solutions that go beyond the disease with the goal of generating a remarkable impact on patients’ lives

Miriam Bello Miriam Bello Journalist and Industry Analyst