With Spain now on the road to economic recovery following the ravages of the global financial crisis, multinational pharmaceutical companies are seeing the country as a top investment destination once more thanks to a much-improved market access scenario, high-quality but affordable manufacturing capabilities and an enviable human resource base.
As Timmo Andersen, general manager of Boehringer Ingelheim (BI) Spain, posits, “Spain is a great country to be operating in at this moment in time.” He elaborates, “Growth in the local pharmaceuticals market is outpacing much of the rest of the national economy at around three to four per cent and this is happening on a consistent basis. Spain is also nowadays offering above-average access to innovative medicines compared with much of the rest of Western Europe. We are no longer subjected to some of the lowest prices and the operating context has been surprisingly stable.”
Humberto Arnés, the director general of Farmaindustria, Spain’s leading pharmaceutical industry association, adds, “In addition to market growth, two other important indicators reflect positive change in Spain: the availability rate and the waiting time. The availability rate reflects the number of products approved by the EMA that are actually available in Spain, and the waiting time reveals how long it takes for a product approved by the EMA to reach the Spanish market. We had dramatically dropped behind for both indicators during the crisis, and we are now back in line with Italy, France and Germany.”
Angel Fernandez, president and managing director of MSD Spain and Portugal, agrees that the country’s market access situation has improved dramatically. He states, “I do believe that Spain has a satisfactory level of market access. Looking at the percentage of drugs approved by the Ministry of Health and the time it takes to gain full market access, Spain falls in the more efficient side of the European markets.”
As a counterpoint, Fernandez does concede that “there continues to be room for improvement. Although the national approval time is relatively quick, practical access is hindered by the territory fragmentation in Spain’s 17 regions. There are too many bodies – too many moving parts – that are making individual analyses throughout Spain.”
Against this backdrop, BI has increasingly chosen to situate key global functionalities in Spain, including an IT support centre established in 2015, now with a staff of over 400, as well as three regulatory affairs centres. Furthermore, in June 2017, BI announced a EUR 130 million investment in its Sant Cugat del Vallès manufacturing facility in Catalonia. Andersen reveals that “BI already manufactures ampoule products such as Nolotil at the Sant Cugat del Vallès complex where we currently employ some 900 personnel.
What the new investment will accomplish is the integration of the production of Respimat, the cartridge and the applicator of a medication for the treatment of respiratory diseases, which will be distributed worldwide. This is a very strategic product that will give us sustainability for the next 15 or so years. All in all, this is an immensely exciting development and will involve the creation of a further 250-300 jobs.”
Noting the rationale behind these big-ticket Spanish investments, Andersen points out that, “Spain is afflicted with exceedingly high youth unemployment. However, the country simultaneously possesses some of the best business universities, technical schools and hospitals. This means that it is very easy to source affordable, but high-quality talent.” He continues, “manufacturing in Spain is significantly cheaper than it would be in Switzerland or our home country of Germany, and yet we can still produce top notch, reliable products suitable for export all around the globe.”