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EF: Looking back over the past couple of years, 2020 was the year of diagnostics, 2021 the year of vaccines, what do you think 2022 will be the year of?
AF: I believe that this is going to be the year in which people with chronic diseases will realize that it's quite important to continue to seek treatment throughout the pandemic. Obesity was one of the chronic diseases that the pandemic emphasized; meaning, we saw that the highest number of young patients who got hospitalized with severe Covid -19 disease or died, were living with obesity. I also believe that 2022 will accentuate the consciousness of taking care of ourselves.
It is also a year that will be very strong on digitalization as this is something that the pharma industry has been discussing for many years. The pandemic has shown that digitalization is possible. Also, with the unpredictability of how long the pandemic is going to last, I think flexibility, innovation, and experimentation are going to be the name of the game.
IW: 2022 is a year in which people are becoming more aware of the importance of health, of being physically and mentally healthy. For Novo Nordisk, it will be a year that focuses a lot on providing information and education, and on being a voice that helps patients find better ways to achieve a healthier and better life.
2022 will also be a year of connectivity through digitalization. This has started through the pandemic with doctors trying to find digital ways to keep helping their patients even in lockdown. Now, this digital communication is part of a normal doctor-patient relationship. Digitalization is also helping to improve different partnerships that provide better solutions for our patients. Our goal is to accelerate these collaborations.
EF: What missions did you set for yourselves professionally?
AF: Professionally, at the end of the day, we want to deliver results, but results come from employees working in an employee-friendly and healthy environment. The big mission here is to listen to our employees and customers and to understand how we can adapt our culture in the coming years. How we can be less risk-averse and have a faster and simpler decision-making process by experimenting with more things, and by working in an environment that joins forces and minds in order to take the company to the next level. I also have a dream that Novo Nordisk will be able to personalize customer experiences when they are using our products or participating in our education initiatives. If we're able to take these two points internally and externally to the level that I envision, we're going to be able to make a significant transformation.
From a personal perspective, I want to take care of my health and make sure I reserve time in my agenda for reflection.
IW: Professionally, I want to help this successful business to keep doing what they are good at, by applying a client mentality to our decision-making process. My goal is to make Brazil a pilot for that, especially with a major focus on moving our mindset from management of digital projects to management of digital products.
Personally, I'd love to have a better work-life balance that serves as an example for other people in our company to do the same. I would love to start meditating as well.
EF: What does access mean to you from a Latin American perspective and how do you expect digitalization to change this?
AF: Access is a journey that's different among countries. For example, I think Colombia now offers more government access to the population than some other countries like Brazil, whose innovative medications are not accessible to most of the population. I believe what we can do as a company is two-fold. First, to continue to work with governments, and second, it's our job to make sure we can develop patient access programs that not only provide financial benefit to patients but also allow them to get information and reminders about their treatment. To achieve these, digitalization is going to be critical as it will help us provide an individualized experience to each patient. Digitalization will also provide information that we can use to build intelligence, which can help us work together in the healthcare ecosystem. Between us, doctors, and patients, we’ll bring together this ecosystem as a way of making the education process an important part of treatment accessibility to patients.
EF: How different are customer journeys either for physicians or patients for all LATAM countries?
AF: These are totally different. For example, Argentina is a pure reimbursement country that is starting to see more people willing to pay out of pocket, which is something we didn't see in the past. Colombia is a total reimbursement market as well. However, in Brazil, if a patient wants an innovative drug, it will not be paid for by the national healthcare system, it'll be covered through the private sector along with the benefits of a patient support program. Therefore, from a disease perspective, the journey changes a lot.
IW: Our goal is to work together with the public sector to help them understand what treatment options are available and that access to good treatment solutions and product guarantees are possible. Of course, we'd love to have more technological solutions for all patients, but Brazil is a huge country, and there are some constraints.
However, going back to the education part, even when treatment is available, we see a lot of people who don't have their disease diagnosed. As such, we've been working with non-government organizations (NGOs) and the public sector to train medical professionals to better identify these diseases, to know which solutions are available for them to offer, and to better start managing diagnoses so that more people can be treated earlier.
EF: What do you think is the contribution and strategic importance of Latin America and Brazil to the group?
AF: First of all, if looked at from a growth perspective, Latin America is a very important region, even though it is smaller compared to some of the other regions whose growth is quite significant. Nevertheless, over the past few years, we have experienced significant two-digit growth. As for Brazil, it’s one of the most important countries for us as it is already a top market for Novo Nordisk. Further, if you look at our expectations for the future for some of the new medications we have coming, Latin America is not left behind. This is seen in the drastic improvement of regulatory processes over the past few years, as we are now obtaining approvals quite fast which is a great benefit from a patient perspective.
Latin America is and will continue to be of strategic importance to us, especially when considering that the company runs clinical trials in some of the top countries in the region, such as Brazil, Colombia, Argentina, and Mexico. These are top-notch clinical trials run through great partnerships so that our investment in Latin America will continue in this direction.
EF: Is there anything in the pipeline that you're excited about coming up into the future?
AF: Yes, we are just launching in Mexico and Brazil an oral GLP-1 which is a great innovation that enables patients to receive GLP-1 treatment without the need for an injection. We also have the indication of semaglutide for obesity, which we have already launched in the US and have seen amazing results.
Looking into the future, there is more exciting innovation coming. For example, new solutions to reduce death rates regarding cardiovascular diseases, and a treatment based on once-weekly insulins for diabetes. There is a lot to come, and the pipeline of the company is quite impressive.
EF: Fast forward five to 10 years, looking back at this period right now, how would you like it to be remembered? What would you like to be remembered for?
AF: Internally, I would like to be remembered as a person who has been able to provide people with the tools to realize their career aspirations. Either by those people who want to stay at their current positions but want to continue to be challenged and developed or the ones who want to keep growing and be able to really take the next step in their career. I would like to be remembered for what I have accomplished and for how I have transformed the lives of people from a personal and professional perspective. For me, this is the most important part of my job.
Externally, I want Novo Nordisk to be recognized as a very innovative company that is really providing unique experiences to our stakeholders. Then, of course, patients being healthy and have even more access to our medications.
IW: I'd like Novo Nordisk to be considered the best partner for every one of our stakeholders. The one that understands their needs and provides the best solutions for patients, doctors, our partners, and society. Novo Nordisk will expand its therapeutic areas and will be seen as a broader treatment company for other chronic diseases.
Internally, I would like our company to be the place where everybody wants to work. We want our people to have fun on their journey.