CNS: Breaking Taboos and Teaming Up
Our product for Alzheimer’s is a blockbuster worldwide, with sales of more than US $1 billion. However, it is obviously not a product of great volume in Latin America,” explains Nicolas Freudenberger, general manager of Merz Mexico. The difficulties pharma companies face in emerging markets are related to their therapeutic area of specialization. For central nervous system (CNS) drugs, Mexico’s young population can prove challenging. “We need to be flexible in choosing which products of our portfolio in Germany are more promising or which products we can get through alliances and licensing that can be a perfect fit in each market,” argues Freudenberger. “For example, in Brazil we have products that are very successful in that country, but are not significantly important for our European operations.
Herman Santoni Ramos, managing director of Lundbeck Mexico, explains that social perception of CNS disorders can prove challenging as well. “Conditions such as schizophrenia or obsessive compulsive disorder continue to be taboo,” he says. “However, we have come a long way, and people today are more comfortable talking about depression or anxiety.”
Lundbeck focuses much of its effort on disease awareness, organizing events with hospitals, universities, and specialists. “We also offer support to patients and family members,” says Santoni Ramos. “Here in Mexico, we have implemented workshops for family members and caregivers of patients suffering from Alzheimer’s. It is very fulfilling to know you can make a difference in the quality of life of those who suffer from these diseases. Every time I receive a letter from a patient or family member sharing how their lives have changed for the better, I know I am in the right industry.”
Both Merz and Lundbeck have launched operations in Mexico in the last decade, and have rapidly positioned themselves as leaders in CNS.
Furthermore, as Santoni Ramos explains, the CNS segment is growing as physicians and the general population become more familiar with these diseases. In this sense, he sees a very positive future for his company in Mexico. Freudenberger agrees, with good reason: In the last five years, Merz’s average annual growth in this market has been between 25 and 30 percent.
Both firms know that to sustain their success they need to continue finding new compounds, not only through their own R&D structures, but also by accurately identifying opportunities for partnering with companies that might not have a core CNS capability and need a Mexican partner to maximize their products’ potential.
At present, both companies have local agreements for their Mexican operations, as well as global agreements, such as the one Lundbeck and Merz already maintain at a global level.