Omar Lugo
Country Lead, nPVU and Market Access, Operations Head
UCB Mexico and Latin America
View from the Top

UCB Going Beyond Pills to Ensure Patient Well-Being

By Miriam Bello | Tue, 07/14/2020 - 09:13

Q: What are UCB’s main contributions to Mexico’s healthcare system and its patients?

A: We have a relevant participation in solutions for patients who live with chronic degenerative diseases like epilepsy, Parkinson’s, rheumatoid arthritis, anxiety and vertigo. Our goal is to enable the patient to recover control over their lives. We are constantly innovating to fulfill the current needs of the targeted population. UCB also has a line for treating allergies, which impact around 40 percent of the global population.

Q: How is UCB helping to improve access to medicine in the country?

A: This year, we started working with INSABI and have introduced our solutions for rheumatoid arthritis. Originally, we participated with our products for epilepsy and Parkinson’s. We work alongside all other public entities like IMSS, ISSSTE and SEDENA with our products.

With the government’s new centralized purchasing scheme, medicine supply would be easier as all public institutions can access the same database, instead of each company having to reach institutions separately. This is a very positive step toward universal health coverage.

Additionally, to try to improve access to our medications, UCB offers support programs for patients through the private sector. For example, one program is called Affordability, which focuses on a person’s payment capability according to their treatment. Through a socioeconomic study, we can offer individualized discounts on therapies.

Q: What are your thoughts regarding the pay-per-results model that the pharmaceutical sector is encouraging?

A: We are very open to working under these types of shared payment models. This is indeed a big step for pharma. However, to date there is no regulatory framework or tender process that allows these kinds of dynamics. While there is willingness from the pharma sector to participate in this model with the government, regulation needs to back both parties to make this possible.

Q: How is UCB encouraging innovation in the country?

A: We are developing a new concept called “Beyond the Pill” that offers added value to our solutions through digital tools, such as wearables or apps. For example, patients with epilepsy can suffer fatal episodes, so we are trying to develop technological tools that can anticipate those seizures and warn the patient through their phone or wearables. This is also intended to alert their caregivers or people around them about the situation enabling a support network. Other example is the development of easier auto-injector devices to reduce the lack of independence in patients with movement disabilities. Health-oriented devices are taking over the world so the smartest thing to do for us is to embrace those developments.

Q: What new products will UCB launch in the Mexican market?

A: UCB is among the companies with the largest reinvestment rates, investing around 26 percent of its revenue in R&D. In 2019, we acquired Ra Pharma, significantly increasing our product portfolio for neurodegenerative diseases. UCB is now focusing on specific population groups where the company can provide a great deal of value, which is why we are focusing our R&D on neurodegenerative diseases, immunology, osteoporosis and bone innovation.

Regarding new products, Mexico plays a very relevant role in trials. The country has a large population that is very interesting to approach in terms of R&D. Moreover, studies for global solutions need to happen in different parts of the world to prove their efficacy.

Q: How has COVID-19 impacted demand and production for UCB?

A: Since the beginning of the year, we have focused on four areas. The first was our employees’ physical and mental health and safety. Second, we ensured medicine supply for patients by performing an analysis of our value chain to avoid disruptions, which allows us to secure supply for Mexico with no further complications. We work closely with CANIFARMA and AMIIF to get the needed permits to continue working as part of an essential industry. We had to adapt to the logistics’ changes because air transportation decreased significantly, but we were able to quickly respond to those changing needs and have a stable and functioning operation.

Third, we are cooperating with the authorities by following their indications and protecting our staff. Additionally, we donated funds to the Mexican Red Cross to support their initiatives and we also worked with AMIIF and CANIFARMA to support several federal government programs. Lastly, UCB would like to support the economic dynamics of the country, recognizing that the pandemic is having a negative effect. We assured timely payments to providers and encourage work with SMEs.

Q: What are UCB’s short-term goals in Mexico?

A: Our priority is to be agile while adapting to the new normal assuring the best way to interact internally and externally. We had to reconfigure the way we interact with doctors and stakeholders. UCB was already dabbling in digital transformation and one of our goals for the future is to strengthen the use of our digital platforms. We are expecting more changes, because one of the lessons from the pandemic is that competition is a matter of agility to adapt more than a matter of size as the environment shifts rapidly.


UCB is a biopharmaceutical company founded in 1928 and specialized in two therapeutic areas: neurology and immunology. It is present in 40 countries with its key products Cimzia, Vimpat, Nubrenza, Keppra and Briviact

Miriam Bello Miriam Bello Journalist and Industry Analyst