Despite Italy being one of the most important pharmaceutical markets not only in Europe but also in the World, the industry remained quite stable for the last two years and the data for 2007 report a less dynamic market than in other European countries. What have been the main factors that have slown down the growth of the Italian pharmaceutical industry?
In the last years, the Italian pharmaceutical sector has been characterized by a number of positive signals together with of course, some more negative ones.Among the positive signals is, first of all, the amount of exports that has experienced a 200% growth in the last 10 years and is now reaching 53% of production. In the same way, investments in production as well as R&D together reached 2,2 billion Euros in 2007- and looking at the next three years, the ‘Accordi di Programma’ program plans over 1 billion Euros budget to be invested.In addition, R&D personnel have increased by about 17% in the last five years and the sector now employs 1000 more people than in 2002. Looking at the companies, Italians account for 1/3 of the Italian pharmaceutical sector, 1/3 being American companies and 1/3 European. Many of them are small and medium-sized companies, but they are all working together as a network, which is another positive characteristic of the industry.But there are also some negative items in the global picture of the Italian pharmaceutical sector.It is worth mentioning that Italy has the lowest ex-factory prices in Europe (30% inferior to those of other European countries), and that our per-capita expenditure is about 40% lower than the European average.The main points of crisis have been the important price cuts implemented in the last years due to a containment of public expenses in Health, and to the increasing power of the Regions- which is a very new characteristic of our system that Italy is trying to consolidate. Since 2008, the Government has been giving some precise targets to the Regions, which are free to set up some instruments as to respect these targets. Therefore, with this new system, there is a risk for Italy to end up with 21 different Health systems- and this is what we are trying to avoid for the industry.Other issues are more connected to the general context of the industry on a global scale, with changes inside the national and multinational companies and a number of expiring patents. In Italy, there has been an important cut of personnel in the last two years, with a loss of about 5000 units- a trend unfortunately still ongoing.To conclude, the particular points of crisis of the Italian industry are the price cuts and the containment of expenditure in connection with the policies of the regions and Government- these are very hard to conciliate with the increasing competition and the ever-growing expenditures for R&D, as the research processes are getting more and more sophisticated and complicated. Government’s cost containment policy is a global trend, with both its advantages and drawbacks.
Looking specifically at the Italian market, is there a risk for such policies to end up deterring R&D expenditures, thus putting at stake the future of the industry- or do you think they are rather making the pharmaceutical industry rethinking its model and find other more profitable ways to enhance R&D in the country?
The Italian system, in addition to all the specificities mentioned above, is also characterized by the ageing of its population, which is now the oldest in Europe. As a consequence, demand is increasing and the Government together with the regions are trying to balance their policies by containing the costs.In order to face this concrete problem, working together with the Government and the Regions, Farmindustria is now focusing on Innovation, as a first priority in its agenda. It is essential to implement strong policies towards research and innovation, and Farmindustria actually managed to work successfully with the previous and current Governments for the setting up of three important measures in favour of R&D.First of all, the implementation of a tax credit for research that can go up to 40 % for partnerships, with a sealed amount of 50 million Euros.It is also important to mention the ‘Accordi di Programma’ program with 61 innovative projects in the pipeline for a total amount of over 1 billion Euros.The last measure is the ‘Industria 2015′ initiative, which was started by the previous government and then confirmed by the current one, and which plans the allocation of 150 million Euros for the industry we are confident that it will concretely start in the coming year.In addition to these measures and Farmindustria’s action, the pharmaceutical companies themselves also found some ways to increase their industrial commitment despite this cost-containment context. Most of them managed to be very flexible and adapt to this situation, for example by balancing the effects of the price cuts by increased exports.
Do you have the feeling that the Government sees the pharmaceutical industry as a strategic asset, or is there still room for improvement as for the relationship between the government and the pharmaceutical industry working together towards the improvement of the healthcare system?
This is an essential topic for Farmindustria, whose first objective since its creation was to make the Government aware that the pharmaceutical industry is not a cost but an opportunity for the Regions, for the people and for the country as a whole. The knowledge that is developed by the pharmaceutical sector has to be seen as an opportunity for the country to achieve sustainable growth. Despite Italy’s competitive advantages, government programs and significant investments in R&D, the country has still not seen the emergence of big pharmaceutical players like for instance France did with Sanofi-Aventis, or Germany with Bayer, or even Spain with Almirall.
In your opinion, what has been missing in order to make Italy more successful in this field and allow local companies to grow further?
I do not entirely agree with your opinion. 1/3 of Farmindustria’s members are Italian companies, and among them we find a number of multinationals like for instance Menarini, Sigma Tau, Chiesi, Recordati, Bracco, Italfarmaco, Alfa Wassermann, Zambon, Dompé, Angelini, Rottapharm.These are very dynamic companies looking to expand. For example Recordati recently has completed the acquisition of Yeni Ialc, an Istanbul- based company.In addition to these growing multinationals, the Italian market also expresses its vitality with a lot of smaller companies, that represent important industrial players and which are able to work in network with big players and public institutions.It is also worth mentioning that our companies are familial companies, often not listed on the stock exchange- and this model of micro companies is an Italian specificity in general. That is why, like in other sectors, the Italian pharmaceutical industry has had a long tradition of smaller dynamic companies which have different ways of growing than big multinationals, but are also flexible, specialized and innovative.
At a time when Italy is going through deep changes and evolutions, which comments would you make about the current situation of Public-Private Partnership in the country?
Public-Private Partnership is a global trend which is currently growing a lot in Italy, as much as in other European countries. We notice that more and more agreements are passed between small companies (167 specialized in Biotech) and public institutions like Universities, Public Research Centres, the Consiglio Nazionale per la Ricerca (CNR) and the Istituto Superiore di Sanità (ISS). Furthermore, a lot of multinationals are eyeing at Italian biotech companies and it creates a lot of opportunities for this sector in the future.
As Farmindustria is celebrating this year its 30th anniversary, what has the association been bringing to the Italian pharmaceutical industry since its creation?
For the past three decades, in a context of battles for patents and price cuts with a lack of long-term vision in public policies, Farmindustria has been important for the development of Italian companies. The association’s first priority was just to defend the industry and it was absolutely necessary at a time when the opportunities it could provide to the country were not recognized yet by the Government.In addition to the original task of the association to defend our members’ position, we are now also trying to highlight the importance of Research and Progress, of the development of new cures, and of people’s responsibility to use drugs. It is important to underline the role of the pharmaceutical sector for the economic growth of the country and its development.Then three years ago, Farmindustria launched an advertising campaign on television and in the newspapers in order to explain to the citizens that some diseases are cured and other will be in the future thanks to the pharmaceutical industry. The goal was to make the people aware of the value of the industry. From a more personal point of view, you had many different responsibilities in your career, with positions at Federchimica, Confindustria and Autostrade.
How challenging has it been for you to enter the pharmaceutical sector three and a half year ago?
I consider the Pharmaceutical industry as the most interesting sector I have been working in my entire career. I grew up in the chemical sector, training at Montedison 20 years ago and then working at Federchimica. I met Mr Dompé, the current president of Farmindustria when he was president of Assobiotec, and I had the chance to work with him. I really liked his innovative and enthusiastic approach of the sector, and that is the reason why I did not hesitate when he took his position at Farmindustria and invited me to join the association- I really took this opportunity as a chance to challenge my life.
Is being a woman at the head of such an association more a challenge or an opportunity?
There is an important number of women involved in the Italian pharmaceutical sector. More than 50% of researchers are women, and we find more women with management and directive functions in the pharmaceutical industry than in other sectors.
What is the best learning you earned from your position at Farmindustria?
Being General Director of Farmindustria and working in the pharmaceutical industry in general taught me how to always think positive. Improvements in this sector really demonstrate that many problems can be solved, as pharmaceuticals can improve people’s lives allowing them to live longer and better.
What is your final message to the readers of Pharmaceutical Executive?
The Italian pharmaceutical Industry wants to offer an attractive environment to foreign investors. In order to make this happen, it is essential for the Government to be able to create the right framework and conditions.