written on 24.06.2014

Interview: Carlos Cicogna Managing Director, MSD, Chile

Carlos Cicogna“We have implemented a strategic plan with a key objective to put Chile on the map. We are seeing major market opportunities in the country”, says Carlos Cicogna, Managing Director, MSD Chile. For MSD in Chile, its vision is to be the best healthcare company in Chile by improving the access to our innovative medicines, vaccines and health solutions, for our commitment with the community, and for being the employer of choice.

Mr. Cicogna, this is the second round for you in Chile, after first experience with Organon in 2007. How has the country evolved in your mind?

Having been outside Chile for almost five years, the country has changed drastically; in a positive way. There have been two major developments in the past five years. The first is the implementation of the new medicine law and the other being the shift in landscape. Top players on the Chilean pharmaceutical market used to be local players but today the key players are multinationals with one exception. I consider this a positive development because  creates a level playing field. Despite these changes in the past years I believe that the biggest changes are yet to come.

What have been the key priorities on your agenda?

For MSD in Chile, our vision is to be the best healthcare company in Chile by improving the access to our innovative medicines, vaccines and health solutions, for our commitment with the community, and for being the employer of choice.

In addition to Managing Director for MSD Chile I am a Board Member at CIF. As CIF we have been working in collaboration with the government and health authorities and as an industry I definitely believe we are moving in the right direction. I feel that there is a good atmosphere of communication and collaboration between the different Stakeholders -with government, universities, and the industry. As an industry representative, we have an active dialogue with these Stakeholders regarding the expansion of access to innovative medicines, but the discussion is still young and we still have a lot to do.

You took the helm of the Chilean operation of MSD about three years ago. Can you give us an overview of the importance of the Chilean subsidiary?

We have implemented a strategic plan with a key objective to put Chile on the map. We are seeing major market opportunities in the country.

With regards to our R&D footprint, we have more than 30 studies conducted across 80 centers in the country. The amount of research conducted by our highly trained scientists in Chile is definitely demonstrating our commitment to the country and its population.

Chile is largely dominated by generics which receive most of governmental support. What are the key factor of success in such an environment and the other specificities of the Chilean market?

The key success factor is to continue working on innovation. As MSD our vision is to make a difference in the lives of people globally through our innovative medicines and we are dedicated to provide leading innovations and solutions for tomorrow. Doing so, we focus on specific therapeutic areas such as diabetes, cardiovascular, immunology (HIV), vaccines and in particular for Chile also women’s health.

An importing turning point in the industry is the implementation of the new bioequivalence law. I strongly believe that this law is the way forward to ensure patient access to medicines certified in terms of quality, safety and efficacy, as recommended by the World Trade Organization. A topic of debate in Chile is Quality Standards and Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) and with the implementation of the new regulations such issues are starting to be addressed.

The environment is therefore getting more attractive for innovators such as MSD?

Definitely. Due to new regulations we will see an equal playing field; fair conditions are being implemented. And as a result there is an increasing interest from the industry to increase investment in the country (e.g. the recent acquisitions of CFR Pharmaceuticals by Abbott and Andromaco by Grunenthal).

First-quarter pharmaceutical sales have been very challenging for MSD globally. How has MSD Chile been performing?

From a global point of view MSD dealt with patent expiries and an unfavorable impact from foreign exchange, which explained the first-quarter performance.  Latin America however has different growth rates. In Chile we have been around a two digit growth for the past three years. We are therefore growing faster than the Chilean market, which is growing around 8 per cent according to IMS Health statistics.

What are the therapeutic areas driving this growth in Chile?

The pillars of growth in Chile are diabetes, cardiovascular, immunology (HIV), acute care, vaccines and women health. A peculiarity of the Chilean market is that women health is the biggest pharma market, an area in which we have deployed several significant products and programmes.

Kenneth C. Frazier, chairman and chief executive officer, Merck said earlier this year:. “This is an exciting time as we prepare to commercialize the next wave of innovation coming out of Merck’s research labs over the next few years.” How sensitive and reactive to innovation are key opinion leaders in Chile?

Mr Frazier is speaking about MSD’s notable progress in the cancer immunotherapy field over the last year. We are studying MK-3475, an investigational, highly selective anti-PD-1 immunotherapy designed to restore the natural ability of the immune system to recognize and target cancer cells.

Having that said, MSD has a world leading pipeline in product development and key opinion leaders are very excited of what is coming from our portfolio, not only in Chile but worldwide.

You have had a long experience in Finance positions. This is really your first position as a General Manager. How different is this from the previous positions you held?

There are quite a few differences between my current position and my previous roles in finance while also being responsible for the region. Being a General Manager is definitely the most challenging and exciting position so far. There are two main challenges attached to my current position. Firstly, dealing with policy and communications and secondly, people management. Naturally I have managed people before and even larger groups of people than I do now but today I am managing different departments at the same time. Having that said, I am managing people 90 per cent of the time; to help making things happened.

What was the most important thing you learnt about yourself?

Active listening skills are fundamental to effective management. If you want to be listened to, first learn how to listen. Moreover I have become more patient and try to make people feel comfortable working with me.

Coming from Argentina, I believe that in personality wise cultures are different but overall Argentinian and Chilean cultures are very similar. The key success factor of coming to a different country is having an open mind set and adapt to the culture.

Also you don’t see that many finance managers making the step to General Manager. Therefore it is hard to lose that “finance label” but I am working very hard on it…

What is motivating you?

The reason why I continue being enthusiastic is that I feel extremely welcome in Chile. And despite the mergers MSD has undergone the past years we have managed to establish a solid culture in the office.

I feel MSD Chile like my second home.

To read more interviews and articles on Chile, and to download the latest free report on the country, click here.

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