Read the Conversation

EF: What are the key priorities on your agenda for the year 2023? 

AR: Our mission in Brazil aligns with our global mission. Lilly ensures that Brazil’s population has access to cutting-edge medicine and swiftly introduces these advancements for the benefit of patients.  

Lilly is at a crucial stage as our innovative products are reaching the market. We are embarking on the journey of launching new products and brands to enhance the lives of patients. It is a significant responsibility that we hold. Our pipeline encompasses a wide range of areas, from diabetes to oncology, immunology, and now, with the latest developments, even neurodegeneration. 

EF: What is Brazil’s strategic significance for Lilly? 

AR: Brazil stands out as one of the rapidly growing markets within our international business unit. This growth can be attributed to several factors. Firstly, Brazil benefits from a vibrant economic environment, which has led to the rise of a burgeoning middle class with increased access to medicine and private insurance. 

Despite the decision made a few years ago to consolidate manufacturing sites, including the closure of the local manufacturing site, Brazil still is a strategic location for Lilly. The commitment to innovation, investment in research and development, and establishing a strong commercial presence in the Brazilian market remains unchanged. The focus may have shifted, but our goal remains consistent: to drive innovation, develop high-quality medicines, and ensure their availability to patients. This commitment to providing effective healthcare solutions is universal, and Brazil is no exception in this regard. 

EF: How would you define access, particularly in the context of the healthcare industry? 

AR: At its core, access is about ensuring that medicine is readily available to patients across a broad population. There are inherent tensions in every business; therefore, we must strike a balance between setting an affordable price that allows companies to reinvest in innovation while reaching as many patients as possible. Achieving this requires collaboration and cooperation among multiple stakeholders. The government, insurers, companies, patient associations, and medical associations all work together. It is undoubtedly a complex topic, but ultimately, access boils down to the profound impact of making medicine available and transforming lives. 

EF: What lessons did you learn from your management experience during the pandemic? 

AR: The key takeaway is that technology alone is not enough. Changing habits and culture is challenging and requires a significant market disruption. While the technology for virtual meetings existed even before COVID, its widespread adoption was limited due to the difficulty of changing human behavior and ingrained biases. We have seen that change is possible, but it is important to note that there is a tendency for things to revert to their previous state quickly. 

It's worth acknowledging that there has been progress in terms of internal and external online interactions, which were previously absent. Although the improvement has been noticeable, it still has not reached its full potential. 

EF: To what extent has Brazil embraced digital transformation? Do you foresee continued evolution in this regard? 

AR: The future will involve a hybrid approach, combining elements from both traditional and digital realms. We will not see a complete shift to one side or the other unless there is another significant disruption to the environment. The use of e-prescriptions and home delivery services has increased in Brazil. The country is adopting technology at a faster pace compared to other nations. One possible explanation is that other countries have a more centralized healthcare system, resulting in greater government control as the primary payer. In contrast, Brazil has allowed for more flexibility, providing an advantage in technological adoption.  

The advancements in telemedicine are particularly impressive. Through the screen, conversations can be engaged with a doctor, and even delve the discussion deeply into the matter at hand. It is both fascinating and enlightening.  

At the end of an online consultation, an e-prescription can be effortlessly downloaded onto an app and sent to a pharmacy. There the medication can be collected or even ordered by a home delivery service. Brazil has reached an advanced level in this regard. Despite the persisting challenges in some areas, the healthcare system appears to be operating efficiently within the country. 

EF: What processes should be improved to thrive in Brazil as a hub for innovation? 

AR: The speed of access is crucial. Harmonizing the regulatory system should be a top priority in every country. Market authorization processes should be more efficient. Many countries still wait for FDA approval before taking action, even though they already have the right data package available.   

In this sense, it is important to acknowledge that we are commercializing life-saving products. By not speeding up the process, we are losing precious time that could make people’s lives better faster. 

The second hurdle is the lengthy procedure following market authorization. It involves acceptance, validation, pricing, and then finally reaching the patients. Rather than diverting attention to other concerns, the key indicator should be the time between innovation readiness and its availability to patients, ultimately saving their lives. 

EF: What are the essential factors for establishing a sustainable business?  

AR: Integrity extends beyond compliance and encompasses the entire pharmaceutical industry. Having worked in countries where the industry's reputation is severely tarnished, it is bewildering that an industry committed to safeguarding lives could be viewed negatively. The COVID-19 pandemic allowed us to regain trust and recognition as essential contributors.  

It is my sincere hope that the industry continues to progress, continually improving and cultivating trust with various stakeholders, including governments, healthcare professionals, patients, families, and society as a whole. I encourage minimizing excessive commercial discourse and instead focusing on the industry's vision and mission, emphasizing how we can positively impact people's lives. Ultimately, this responsibility lies with all of us; with every individual working within this industry. 

July 2023