2023 got off to a good start for Boehringer Ingelheim’s human pharma division. Not only has the year begun with substantial sales growth thanks to the German firm’s diabetes and heart failure drug, Jardiance, the company is also advancing on a number of other fronts. While Jardiance is expected to soon be approved by the FDA for chronic kidney disease, Boehringer Ingelheim has also embarked on a number of R&D partnerships and recently launched a biosimilar to blockbuster Humira. The regional and country managers PharmaBoardroom has interviewed over the past year share their main focus areas and priorities.
Maintaining Digital Progress
Jonathan Chin, GM for Hong Kong and Macau, notes the digital advancements that were forged in the region during the pandemic. “The pandemic further expanded digital ecosystems in China and other parts of the world, resulting in significant changes such as virtual consulting and increased adoption of digital tools for healthcare services,” he says.
With the digital advancements made during the pandemic, it is essential to ensure that we do not fall back into old practices
Jonathan Chin, GM Hong Kong & Macau
Chin feels, however, that it is vital to maintain the digital headway made in the region. “With the digital advancements made during the pandemic, it is essential to ensure that we do not fall back into old practices.” Maintaining this conquered digital ground, in his view, is a priority. “As an organization, we must focus on leveraging and further enhancing these digital advances. Embracing and sustaining the digital transformation will be crucial as we move forward in this evolving healthcare landscape.”
For regional managing director of IMETA and head of human pharma Mohammed Tawil, rare diseases are an important focus area. “We need to identify and address the challenges those with rare diseases, and those trying to find ways to treat and cure them, face,” he asserts. According to Tawil, a number of factors come into play when it comes to rare diseases. “From lack of awareness and established standards of care, to delays in diagnosis and a dearth of robust clinical data, the struggles are myriad,” he says.
By working together across public and private sectors, and ensuring that the healthcare community is informed, we can start to make a positive impact
Mohamed Tawil, regional managing director IMETA & head of human pharma
Collaboration between governments and companies if essential, states Tawil: “By working together across public and private sectors, and ensuring that the healthcare community is informed, we can start to make a positive impact.” Moreover, he remarks, early diagnosis is critical because while there may not be a cure for rare diseases like Pulmonary Fibrosis (IPF), there are medicines that can slow its progression and for this reason building awareness is a priority. In that regard, Tawil’s region has piloted a number of initiatives. “Recent initiatives here in the region include our annual Interstitial Lung Disease summit for healthcare professionals which is designed to drive peer-to-peer exchange of the latest scientific information on rare respiratory conditions,” he says. “This event and others like it provide real-world evidence in shaping the therapeutic landscape in clinical practice, allowing healthcare professionals to gain actionable insights.”
Partnering for Healthcare Transformation
Speaking of Egypt, one of the key countries in her region, Marianne Abou Elkheir, GM & head of human pharma, Levant, Iraq, North-East Africa & Sub-Saharan Africa, praises the approval of the universal health insurance law as “one of the best things that have happened to the country.” She also speaks highly of the adjacent reforms. “In addition to increasing citizens’ access to quality care, there have been a number of new policies and reforms that came with this universal health insurance law.”
A major priority for us at Boehringer Ingelheim is to continue to support the success of initiatives and programs that optimize patient access
Marianne Abou Elkheir, GM & head of human pharma, Levant, Iraq, North-East Africa & Sub-Saharan Africa
For Abou Elkheir the reshaping of Egypt’s healthcare system represents an opportunity and she sets partnering with government and local stakeholders to support this transformation as an ongoing priority. “A major priority for us at Boehringer Ingelheim is to continue to support the success of initiatives and programs that optimize patient access to needed medicines.”
To this effect, the local organisation has been working closely with the Ministry of Health and key healthcare organizations. From Abou Elkheir’s perspective, leading a number of countries across the region, this approach is essential not only in Egypt. “I am optimistic about our ability to work with governments, healthcare professionals and major stakeholders in the healthcare sector to bring breakthrough therapies that will change and improve patients’ lives for generations.”
South America, the region Dirk Van Niekerk leads as managing director, has seen its share of instability. Beyond the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, Van Niekerk has led the affiliate through political volatility and new governments as well as economic fluctuations. “The combination of this series of events has brought with it significant pressure on the economic stability of the region, as can be seen by significant rises in inflation and devaluation of local currencies in most countries.” This situation has put cost control at the centre of his priorities. “The immediate challenge will be to carefully manage our costs in a way to be able to effectively deal with the economic challenges in the region,” he claims.
The immediate challenge will be to carefully manage our costs in a way to be able to effectively deal with the economic challenges in the region
Dirk Van Niekerk, managing director South America
Van Niekerk remains realistic about the erratic nature of the region. “I do not believe that South America’s volatility in terms of its political and economic environment will go away.” Yet he also believes that instability can be factored into the regional strategy. “The secret is to accept it as quickly as possible, not allow yourself to become frustrated, exercise vigilance in terms of disciplined cost management, harness the skills and talents in your team, demonstrate high levels of agility and willingness to quickly adapt to changing environments, but most of all: recognise the very important role you have to play in contributing to a more healthy and vibrant society in South America.”