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EF: What are this year’s strategic plans and priorities for Novo Nordisk’s Latin American region?  

AF: We are steadfastly committed to investing in Latin America regarding the prevailing economic and social challenges. Our dedication to this region remains unwavering as we spearhead significant transformative efforts.   

One factor influencing our continued investment is the profound impact of the covid pandemic, which has underscored the critical need for addressing diseases such as diabetes and obesity. A substantial number of young individuals who experienced severe COVID-19 or succumbed to the virus were patients with diabetes and obesity. Consequently, we are intensifying our focus on education, ensuring that comprehensive awareness extends not only to diabetes but also to related conditions among all stakeholders involved.  

Our active involvement with medical societies, patient organizations, and industry associations exemplifies our dedication to forging strategic partnerships and contributing to the collective cause.   

We are actively exploring expansion opportunities into other countries, as Latin America presents an ample opportunity for us to educate and treat an even greater number of patients. Our aspirations extend beyond medication alone; we strive to foster a profound understanding of the paramount importance of holistic well-being.  

EF: Considering the vastness of Latin America, with its diverse access models and varying social demographic backgrounds, how do you navigate international cooperation to establish a comprehensive and global agenda?  

AF: In essence, we strive to maximize the potential within each country, ensuring that a growing number of patients can access our medications effectively.  

Two noteworthy and impactful initiatives are Cities Changing Diabetes and our partnership with UNICEF. These programs exemplify our commitment to addressing the issue on a large scale. Additionally, we have formed partnerships with various societies throughout Latin America, aiming to expand education and facilitate discussions on access.  

The access landscape varies across countries. For instance, in Brazil, a substantial part of human and modern insulin is still provided by the government through well-established programs. However, most GLP-1 and obesity treatments are primarily obtained through private means. On the contrary, we observe a different scenario in Colombia, with a significant portion of our business stemming from reimbursed models. We must comprehend the unique characteristics of each market, acknowledging the distinctions between countries. Factors such as systems, cultures, and societal nuances differ substantially. This invaluable experience has allowed me to appreciate the need for tailored strategies and an in-depth understanding of individual countries, including Argentina, Chile, Colombia, and Mexico.  

In Brazil, I served as the President of Interfarma's board for nearly two years before assuming my current position. This role allowed me to actively participate in transforming the healthcare system for the better. The pharma industry continuously strives to be proactive partners to society and healthcare systems in order to leverage opportunities and drive positive change throughout the sector. 

EF: How does Novo Nordisk commit to being a partner in the patient's journey?  

AF: A crucial area of our focus is gaining a profound understanding of the patient journey. By engaging with patients and healthcare professionals, we aim to grasp the authentic experience, identify where we can actively participate, and provide valuable support. The aspiration is to reach a point where we can personalize the experience for our stakeholders, whether doctors or patients. While complying with regulatory limitations, we strive to leverage data analysis to deliver a truly unique and tailored customer experience.  

Our commitment extends beyond the initiation of treatment. We aspire to be long-term partners throughout the patient's journey, particularly in the case of obesity. Often, we witness individuals solely relying on medication for a brief period of time, resulting in limited progress. However, it is vital to comprehend that obesity is a chronic disease, and our objective is to foster a collaborative relationship where patients recognize this fact. We aim to provide them with relevant information and an exceptional experience that supports their needs and journey.  

EF: As explained by the Brazilian Diabetes Association (SBD), the country lacks important data about the disease prevalence and burden of diabetes. How can companies like Novo Nordisk and other stakeholders help to build a digital network for better data generation?   

AF: Collaboration is key in this endeavor. However, there are still several unknowns regarding the appropriate approaches to undertake. In Brazil, we rely on government-provided data that may not be the most reliable, along with data from our partners and vendors. Additionally, our company possesses internal data generated with the utmost respect for privacy and consent.  

In this scenario, the question arises of how we can leverage these datasets effectively and complement them with externally available data to build a robust network. While we are currently on this journey, we have not yet reached a destination. However, there is a growing awareness of the need to optimize data utilization and ensure proper collection methods to make a meaningful impact and provide an exceptional experience.  

EF: From a management perspective, how do you balance digital and analog capabilities to maintain effective operations in this hybrid model?  

AF: People and culture are key in navigating this hybrid model. We recently launched a new vision for LATAM, which revolves around redefining health together. From now until 2025, we aim to approach health from a fresh perspective, fostering partnerships and exploring innovative approaches. Our vision encompasses three pillars: culture, business, and reputation. Culture stands as the most critical pillar. Without the right culture, achieving desired business outcomes and maintaining a positive reputation becomes challenging. Our culture promotes experimentation, continuous learning, and empowering our workforce to foster creativity.  

When we talk about the digital-analog balance, it ultimately boils down to creating an environment where individuals are encouraged to provide their input and their ideas are welcomed. This requires creating an environment that encourages open-mindedness and critical thinking, allowing us to explore innovative solutions while upholding compliance and quality measures. It is not about relying solely on digital or analog systems, but also recognizing that our foundation’s success lies in the people within our organization.  

To foster this environment, we must cultivate a culture that values and embraces individual contributions. Diversity and inclusion play a vital role in this process. It goes beyond gender or sexual orientation and encompasses various aspects of identity, such as religion, race, and more. By creating an inclusive culture where everyone feels safe to bring their authentic selves and unique ideas to the table, we can unlock the full potential of our workforce.  

EF: How is Novo Nordisk actively contributing to the environmental targets set for 2030, and what collaborative efforts are being undertaken in Latin America to achieve these goals?  

AF: In LATAM, we are heavily investing in transforming our operations and ensuring that sustainability is not just a word on our background or a banner during conference calls. It is something we truly embody. A great example is our Montes Claros facility in Brazil. This facility is aligned with our 2030 sustainability goals, as it now sources its water from rain.  

Ensuring that other areas and stakeholders align with our sustainability efforts is important. We are currently working on a challenging but impactful project on recycling our pens. While developed countries have well-established systems for pen collection and recycling, Latin America lacks such infrastructure. Consequently, we are dedicating substantial efforts to identify localized solutions for effective pen collection and recycling in these regions.  

It is crucial for us to demonstrate our sustainability work through tangible actions. We want to make a real difference and have observed the positive impact in each country where we implement sustainable practices.  

EF: What milestones would you like to commemorate in the next decade, building upon the accomplishments thus far?  

AF: Novo Nordisk is deeply committed to ensuring that individuals with diabetes and obesity can lead normal lives.  The IDF Diabetes Atlas (2021) reports that 10.5% of the adult population (20-79 years) has diabetes, with almost half unaware that they are living with the condition. We aim to significantly increase this number. Achieving this requires a multifaceted approach involving education and developing more user-friendly products. Therefore, we continually strive to enhance innovation.  

Obesity presents a different challenge. The World Obesity Atlas 2023 predicts that 51%, or over 4 billion people, will be living either overweight or obese by 2035 if current trends prevail. 

We want to raise awareness of the importance of treatment, encourage self-care, and emphasize that medication is just one aspect of managing the condition. Lifestyle factors such as exercise and diet play crucial roles. Additionally, we envision providing an individualized experience for doctors, patients, and partners. Recognizing the uniqueness of each person is vital, considering the variations across countries and individuals.  

When dealing with chronic diseases that span a lifetime, our vision encompasses greater access to treatment, improved disease understanding, efficient product launches, streamlined clinical trials, and personalized experiences. Our primary focus remains on making patients' lives easier while improving their quality of life. This purpose underpins everything we do.  

June 2023