Bristol-Myers Squibb’s General Manager in Poland stresses the urgent need to allow more innovative drugs to fight against deadly diseases, especially in the field of immune-oncology which he says will: “change survival expectations and the way patients live with cancer.”
How do you explain the fact that BMS is only ranked 33rd in Poland compared to 17th largest pharma company worldwide?
At Bristol-Myers Squibb, our Mission is to help patients prevail over serious diseases and this is how we measure success. For the last five years, we hadn’t been able to bring any of our new innovative medicines to patients in Poland, since reimbursement and access of our new products had been limited between 2008 and March 2014. Clearly, our company’s local ranking has been impacted by this. Committed to our Mission, we continue to work closely with authorities to ensure patients in Poland have access to the new treatment options that we offer in areas of high unmet medical need.
BMS has decided to become a biopharma company in Poland, whereas most companies are diversifying towards OTC. Why this approach?
Bristol-Myers Squibb has long been a company that looks ahead, anticipates challenges and opportunities, and adapts accordingly. We started our BioPharma evolution back in 2007, when we made a bold decision to change course and become a Biopharma company, uniquely combining the reach and resources of a major pharma company with the entrepreneurial spirit and agility of a successful biotech company. Our global strategy also allows us to make the greatest difference in the lives of patients in Poland, by offering new treatment options in areas of high unmet medical need, like oncology, virology and cardiovascular.
You were appointed general manager at BMS Poland only five months ago. What do you see as your main priority to lead this company forward in Poland?
My priority as General Manager is to find the best platform to continue but also strengthen constructive dialogue with the local authorities to ensure patients have access to innovative therapies in Poland.
We do see some positive signs. For instance, the first approved compound from our robust immuno-oncology pipeline was reimbursed in March 2014 for adult patients with advanced melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. Clearly, this is great news for our local organization. Most importantly, it will help address a high unmet need for patients in Poland.
What are your perspectives on the positive and negative aspects of the new legislative framework?
I believe that the Reimbursement Act was the right step in bringing more transparency and clearer guidelines. Also importantly, it has brought important savings to the Ministry of Health. What remains to be seen is whether these savings will be reinvested in innovation, which was the key aim of this Act and a common objective among all stakeholders.
How can BMS’s pipeline in oncology help to bring the best innovative medicines to the fight against cancer in Poland?
In Poland, there is an ongoing discussion among different stakeholders on how to bring better access to innovative oncology treatments in Poland and we are trying to actively contribute to this discussion. After all, for more than 50 years, Bristol-Myers Squibb has been dedicated to biopharmaceutical research to discover and develop medicines to fight cancer and to improve the lives of patients. Today, we have placed a high priority on research that focuses on new and innovative approaches to treat cancer since long-term survival and a positive quality of life continue to remain elusive for many patients with advanced disease. To address this unmet medical need, Bristol-Myers Squibb is leading advances in an emerging and rapidly evolving field of cancer research and treatment known as immuno-oncology, which involves agents whose primary mechanism is to work directly with the body’s immune system to fight cancer. The goal of immuno-oncology is to change survival expectations and the way patients live with cancer. We will continue to work closely with all stakeholders to ensure patients in Poland have access to our innovative portfolio.
How can BMS create a real revolution and bring forward the necessary prevention programs and screening to reduce cancer?
Indeed, there are many unmet needs in oncology treatment, not only in our country, but across Central Eastern Europe. Once again, we are proud that our Company is making a difference, through the BMS Foundation, which invests in a broad range of programs that reflect our values and serve the needs of society. Specifically, Bridging Cancer Care, the Foundation’s cancer initiative in Central and Eastern Europe, directs funding and develops partnerships to help narrow the differences in care and outcomes experienced by cancer patients. In Poland, our program focuses in such areas of high need as prevention, earlier diagnosis, and physician-patient dialogue.
Today, Polish patients continue to be diagnosed with cancer at later stages than in Western Europe and we all need to work together to change this. A positive sign comes from breast cancer where the government successfully launched screening and awareness programs, resulting in an improvement in earlier detection and mortality rates.
What opportunities does BMS see in the Polish market for clinical research?
BMS’s clinical trials center in Poland can be considered an important hub as we are covering six countries in the CEE region, including Russia and Turkey. The hub’s importance is increasing thanks to the quality of Polish researchers. Making sure that our newly developed molecules have a real impact on patients’ lives is fundamental and clinical trials will remain our priority.
What can we expect for BMS in the next five years? How will you manage to reach the top 20 ranking?
As I said before, we measure success by the difference we make in the lives of patients. Therefore, our vision for the next five years is to further engage with external stakeholders and continue constructive dialogue to ensure patients have access to our innovative portfolio. At the same time, in line with our specialty care BioPharma strategy, we aspire to continue to deliver the greatest value to customers and patients, with the highest standards of scientific excellence, business ethics and integrity.
How do you see Poland evolving in the near future?
In general terms, Poland’s economy is in a good shape, with expected 3 percent GDP growth in 2014, and is thus increasingly attractive for investors. Having been a member of the European Union for 10 years now, we are constantly decreasing the gap in terms of GDP per capita versus EU average. Now, it is time to bridge the gap in terms of investments in healthcare. Overall, I am convinced about good prospects for the country and for our operations in Poland.
To read more interviews and articles on Poland, and to download the latest free report on the country, click here.