Read the Conversation

EF: What attracted you to join Faes Farma and their work in Mexico?

AB: I've had experience with major pharmaceutical firms before. These companies mainly target emerging markets, investing substantial funds into specialized gene and cell therapy treatments. However, these treatments are expensive in our region, around $10,000, which is unattainable for us. Currently, in Faes, we've introduced innovative, reasonably priced patented products. This approach suits Mexico's out-of-pocket healthcare landscape, where patients buy medicines themselves. Faes offers excellent therapies at prices similar to generics, spanning various areas, like antihistamines. We've crafted top-notch patented solutions comparable to older products' costs. Take our vitamin D offering – it's the best with a patent yet costs similarly to plain cholecalciferol. Our goal is quality and affordability, ensuring people can afford their medicines and manage daily expenses.

EF: Could you elaborate on your portfolio in Mexico and how it has adapted from Spain to the Mexican market?

AB: Initially, we started with a promising drug called Bilastine. We allied with a Mexican company and quickly realized the untapped potential of the product. Their previous approach had yet to do it justice. We highlighted the product's worth to them, and they realized it. This realization led to the birth of Faes Farma in Mexico. We hired a small team, revamped our strategy, and dove into promoting the product. That's when I joined the company. We started with 60 employees and are now at 220 in just a year and a half. Naturally, our sales soared – up 21% in 2021 and an impressive 61% in 2022. Currently, we're maintaining a 60% growth rate. The Spanish team believes wholeheartedly in the Mexican market's potential, aiming to make it Faes Farma's second most vital subsidiary. While we're not there yet, we're diligently working toward it.

EF: Why did you choose to open a Mexican subsidiary?

AB: We're present in Colombia, Chile, Peru, Ecuador, and Central America, but Brazil isn't among our subsidiaries. In the Americas, after Brazil, Mexico's market holds great importance. Our council meetings reflect this, consistently focusing on Mexico's progress. The investment is the proof; we're preparing to launch three more innovative products by year-end. Our commitment to Mexico remains strong; we're constantly investing and driving growth.

EF: From your perspective and that of Faes Farma, is this year a challenge or an opportunity?

AB: We are facing many challenges, particularly concerning COFEPRIS and permits. COFEPRIS is meant to respond within 20 days, yet delays of 60, 90, or even 180 days are common – a significant issue we're grappling with. I understand their caution due to drug issues from China, but it's causing difficulties in importing quality products. Conversely, the opportunities in Mexico's private market are substantial and expanding. Despite having 12 products in our portfolio, eight of which are innovative, presenting these advantages to doctors remains challenging. We're tackling this with over 200 field experts to showcase our top-tier offerings and their patient benefits.  

EF: You partnered with a local company to bring innovation to Mexico. Could you elaborate more on that?

AB: Initially, we partnered with a local company for one to two years when this company began in Mexico, but things have changed. Now, we handle product distribution ourselves.

EF: How is your go-to-market approach, and how are you innovating and evolving?

AB: Absolutely, we plan our launches about a year ahead. We thoroughly assess the benefits of each product, consulting with our board of consultants and key opinion leaders for guidance. We want to ensure the best approach to introducing our innovative products to physicians. The pandemic caused a rapid technological shift – we now rely heavily on webinars and digital methods, departing from in-person events. Following our preparation, we launched the product, engaging with major distributors, pharmacy chains, and medical associations to showcase our offerings.

EF: How do you balance digitalization and your operations within the Mexican market?

AB: Our initial problem lies with our reps – they often request physical materials like papers and pens for physicians. We're changing this approach, encouraging them to gather physician contact details for sending digital information, even stickers. We have the telephone numbers of over 22,000 physicians, enabling us to share clinical information about our innovative products. This digital communication is vital since our products boast substantial clinical data and benefits. Sending excessive papers isn't practical, so we embrace digital tools and pathways.

EF: Can you tell us more about your current initiatives and what you are doing to advance prevention?

AB: It's quite interesting. Our innovative products aren't well-known among many physicians. To address this, we organize meetings where we educate and persuade them. We've introduced a practical approach – providing nurses with ample product supplies for patient studies. We successfully implemented this with flavor tonics and are now focusing on vitamin D. Vitamin D testing is often overlooked despite its importance. Our goal is to prevent issues by promoting their significance in patient well-being. The joint presence of physicians, nurses, and us in these meetings helps patients understand and embrace the importance and need for our products for their health.

EF: How do you attract the best talent in Mexico throughout the team's growth?

AB: It was quite a challenge. Just one person handled human resources. We used LinkedIn and other platforms to share job listings. Initially, we hired a unit head who helped recruit managers. Then, we opened applications, received CVs, and passed them to managers for review. Once they selected candidates, we conducted interviews, and it took about two months to complete the hiring process. Our human resources expert has refined her interviewing skills through thousands of discussions, making the process smooth and effective.

EF: When you look back on this period of your career in ten years, how would you like the people around you to remember you?

AB: Let me share a similar experience with Novartis. Before I joined Novartis, they were focused on licensing in, not out. When I joined, they needed to gain the know-how for licensing out. I took the initiative, leading to remarkable success and securing 500 million licensing deals. I established a framework to bolster knowledge exchange with Asia and other regions. It was indeed a significant challenge, but the outcome was truly rewarding.

EF: If you had to create a roadmap to the future for the Mexican healthcare industry for the next five to ten years, what would your three main base pillars be?

AB: First, when building a team, aim for those who are committed and believe in your vision – they bring out the best. Secondly, gather ample information to make informed decisions from various sources. Lastly, strive for excellence in the market. It's not just about having the best product but also delivering exceptional service that sets you apart and captures the market's attention.

EF: Do you have any final message for our readers?

AB: We need increased investment in the healthcare and pharmaceutical sectors. We must allocate funds, particularly in nations where gene and cell therapies are unaffordable. Our countries face various health challenges, and finding optimal treatments for conditions that lack funding is crucial.

September 2023