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EF: 2020 was the year of diagnostics, 2021 the year of vaccines; when we look back at 2022, what will it be the year of?
EA: General Medicines is a key business unit inside Sanofi, where we are a leader in chronic diseases. During the past two years, treatment management and treatment adherence were low. Therefore, 2022 will be the year of returning to healthcare management and shifting patients back to care. It will be the year of turning things around and returning the focus to non-communicable diseases.
EF: What mission did you set for yourself when you were appointed to your current role?
EA: When I was first appointed, it was like going into the unknown. The main objective was to capitalize on acceleration with digital solutions to bring solutions to patients. My second mission was to learn how to digitally lead the number one company in the healthcare sector in Colombia. I had to lead the company remotely.
We are leaders in chronic diseases like diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, hypertension, and high cholesterol. About 75% of the healthcare systems’ costs in Colombia and the region go towards chronic illnesses. Our mission is to bring solutions to patients and society as a whole. If we sell product-based drugs alone, we will not be fulfilling our purpose.
EF: Can you elaborate more on your digitalization and partnerships in Colombia?
EA: The first thing we delivered was the development of the new and innovative healthcare professionals’ portal. While Colombia was in complete lockdown, we had to develop this tool to accelerate our promotional context with our sales forces. In the end, we maintained our relationship with the customer through quality service and engagement.
Secondly, we had a lot of acceleration products in diagnosis telemedicine within our digital ecosystem. A lot of people with serious conditions like diabetes or other chronic illnesses visit the doctor only twice or thrice a year on average. We developed digital therapy and launched it in Colombia to help patients control and manage their illnesses. Through this platform, if a diabetic person is not adhering to their treatment, or if they run out of insulin, the support team calls the patient, and the doctor, to inform them of the non-adherence. The need for this type of service accelerated the use of the platform during the pandemic. With covid, digitalization became an important part of everyone’s life.
During Covid, we experienced many difficulties trying to deliver treatments/ therapies to patients and consumers. To combat this challenge, we developed some digital and e-commerce tools with Rappi and other delivery companies. As a result, patients could get diagnosed, monitor their adherence, and have their medicines delivered straight to them. These products and services are being implemented in Colombia, which is a fantastic achievement.
EF: How is focusing on non-communicable diseases reflected in the evolution of your portfolio, and how would you like to position yourselves in Colombia?
EA: We have a more comprehensive portfolio in chronic diseases. Medication only takes up 30% of the treatment plan. The rest of the treatment is dependent on adherence, lifestyle, and health consciousness. Newer
medicines have a few additional benefits. This changed Sanofi’s strategy. Our portfolio is now changing with the addition of digital therapy solutions.
The pandemic showed how much collaborations between the private and public sectors need to evolve. We need to accelerate the medical solution rate to stop the growth rate of diseases. We will not reach these objectives if we only focus on developing treatments/ therapies for different conditions instead of preventing them. Sanofi's vision is to; work hand in hand with all stakeholders to create innovative solutions.
EF: Can you elaborate on the incentives and what can be achieved through more collaborations between the public and private sectors?
EA: I always have the private-public partnership in mind. As a company, we always consider the patient first and society second. We brought public and private partnerships to the country, even though they are not as common in Colombia.
Sanofi recently drafted an agreement with the USC and the French Embassy. The deal allows students to exchange from Colombia to France and the inverse. During the student-exchange program, some students gain insight and return to their respective countries with a project idea. The company takes on some of these projects. We work with the university and the embassy to support the students and accelerate their projects. It is an example of how a partnership should be.
EF: What makes Colombia such an attractive hub for Sanofi?
EA: Several reasons make Colombia an attractive hub. The first reason is geopolitical positioning. Colombia is in a strategic market. It has the potential to impact the rest of Latin America. The second reason is the human resources capacity. Colombia has a high literacy rate, with several excellent tertiary-level education institutes. It is a great innovation hub where you can work with universities and give opportunities to younger generations. Everyone who graduates is potential human resource capital.
The third reason is that Colombia is a digital hub, which allows us to have good resources around us. These resources include startups. Colombians are very creative and passionate about what they do. The potential for our company to grow in Colombia is tremendous, which is why we established a branch here. Colombia could be a good supply hub for Sanofi to supply to the rest of Latin America.
EF: Can you tell us more about the new centre you are opening and how Sanofi promotes local innovation from within the country?
EA: The pandemic highlighted the importance of local production. We have a facility in Cali currently ranked number two in the region. One of the key elements of the generic business is the fresh index. The fresh index is the number of products you can accelerate year by year and put innovation in the market. Our capacity to produce new products and market reach is not optimal. As a result, we asked Sanofi global to invest in the facility here. With the investment, we plan to inaugurate the development centre in Cali. It will allow us to produce twelve to fifteen products in the next three years. We are having a shift in reliance and self-efficiency in the country.
We are balancing and helping the healthcare system in Colombia to reduce the costs of the products produced locally. Reducing costs is very important at the moment because of inflation. This is part of the social responsibility mindset we have in Colombia, and we will continue pushing and developing it.
EF: What are your thoughts on Sanofi’s rebranding?
EA: The company rebrand was about modernizing the brand. The new brand is about innovation. The second reason is to unify the image of the company. Before the rebrand, the company had four business units. After the rebranding, all the business units were integrated to unify all the mergers and acquisitions. All mergers come with rich histories, but they are all about coming together and proceeding into the future as one mind. Fifteen years ago, I arrived as a Vaccines General Manager of Sanofi. Now I am the General Manager for General Medicines- Business Unit- and Country Manager of the COPAC region. It is good to be perceived as a modern company with a sense of purpose, all unified and known under one name.
EF: At the end of the year, what achievement will you celebrate, and what will be in your year-end speech?
EA: The first thing we will celebrate is the resilience of our employees. Sanofi underwent a huge transformation. Without the team's engagement, we would not have achieved everything we achieved. I will congratulate everyone for their engagement, resilience, and passion. I will commend them on being the number one company in Colombia and one of the most celebrated subsidiaries worldwide because of all the initiatives we run in Colombia and the region. Such an accomplishment presents a lot of opportunities for them locally and internationally.
As a company leader, you need to have an executive committee. In the healthcare environment, we have initiatives that help people struggling with mental health. We have a program that we launched in Sanofi to take care of the mental health of all our employees. These types of initiatives make the company more humane. People should always come first. The healthier and more motivated people are, the more they can achieve.