Américo García
Director General of Mexico and Latin America
Apotex
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View from the Top

Vertical Supply Integration for Continuous Care Provision

By Miriam Bello | Fri, 05/07/2021 - 15:42

Q: How do promotional campaigns impact the company’s products?

A: Promotional campaigns like that for Espadiva, which was conducted through digital networks and television, lead to growth. In the example of Espadiva, the campaign led to growth in purchase intentions and a substantial increase in sales. For this specific solution, we are the fastest-growing product as a result of the promotional campaign surrounding it.

Likewise, in the OTC category, Apotex is about to launch marketing campaigns for Mugasin, a fiber that improves the digestive system. The product targets a larger consumer segment and as such, it will require a different approach. Espadiva targeted young women who were active on social media, while the target consumer for Mugasin is across age groups and gender. We have also significantly consolidated our electrolytes line. This is a powder solution that has further growth potential.

We have been exploring new digital communication campaigns, such as Guía Tu Salud (Guide Your Health). Instead of promoting the product directly, we work with our commercial partners to share educational facts that guide the patients to the product.

Q: How did USMCA’s new IP protection rules impact the pharmaceutical industry?

A: The impact was mostly on biotechnology products. Patent protections have been extended and this will have a negative impact on the speed at which cheaper and more product options become available. On the other hand, COFEPRIS has also proposed eliminating the need for clinical studies in Mexico to request sanitary registration of biosimilar biotechnological drugs, which can ease the introduction of these types of products.

Another change was the validity of extensions of health records. Currently, the extension must be requested every five years. Given that medicines and medical devices must be reviewed periodically, COFEPRIS proposes to strengthen health surveillance, with extensions only necessary after the first five years of obtaining the health registry. The term of the extension would be indefinite, except in cases where COFEPRIS determines it is necessary to request an extension for surveillance reasons.

COFEPRIS is now also accepting health documentation in English, which is positive for foreign companies like Apotex because it saves time and money spent on translation. Documents can be presented digitally, as well, which will make processes more efficient. 

One not very positive change relates to packaging for government products. A couple of years ago, packaging became standardized but now they are asking us to go back to differentiation.

An announcement on wait times for approvals is still pending. Delays are affecting returns for many companies, which also impacts the product’s possible introduction to other markets if countries require a certificate of origin for a product.

Q: How was Apotex’s product demand impacted by disruptions in 2020?

A: There has been an interesting market shift. On the one hand, the lack of medicine supply from the government has generated demand in the private sector. Moreover, as a result of the pandemic and the serious threat to people with chronic diseases, we have seen an increase in demand for products to treat these ailments. This is a good sign regarding treatment adherence and how patients are approaching their health. 

In the public sector, due to several changes in the acquisition process, we experienced disruption in our regular supply. About 44% of the government’s medicine purchases were concluded directly with the provider, which meant a 100 percent growth in this form of purchasing. However, our sales in this sector did experience a decrease as a result of the administration’s complex purchasing system.

In the private sector, we experienced growth tied to the shortages in medicines in the public sector. Overall, our mission was to ensure medicine supply for all our patients and I think Apotex was successful in that.

Q: How has Apotex diversified its supplier base?

A: We are the only company with API production in Canada and Mexico and we are also the only company with complete product manufacturing in those two countries. Compared to other companies, we have better vertical supplier integration. I have seen other companies diversifying their supplier base but, in that sense, Apotex has enough supplier capacity and control over the quality of its products. Still, the company is well aware of the global situation, so we anticipate our stock and plan for incoming orders. We have also diversified our supplier base and have alternative options in line with our R&D projects in Mexico, where we have secured our raw material needs through different providers.

Q: What role will the pharmaceutical industry play in Mexico’s economic recovery?

A: This industry has contributed to and sustained Mexico’s economy during the pandemic. We have not stopped our operations or economic contribution. I do think the authorities could work on attracting more investment into this area. The pharmaceutical industry has long-term investment plans and we are careful about where we put our money.

On another note, nitrosamines are threatening the supply continuity of this market. These are residual elements that if above certain levels, can be carcinogenic. This has caused the withdrawal of products such as ranitidine. Products like this, if taken regularly, can increase the risk of developing cancer. This has been disruptive for many companies, as low level of nitrosamines are commonly present in drugs. Nitrosamines are, in fact, more common in food and beverages but given the high regulation of our industry, more attention will be present in medicines.

 

 Apotex manufactures and commercializes generic and innovative drugs in more than 115 countries. It has invested over $1 billion over the past ten years to develop innovative product solutions in various categories. 

Miriam Bello Miriam Bello Journalist and Industry Analyst