Read the Conversation

EF: If 2020 was the year of diagnostics and 2021 the year of vaccines, what will 2022 bring? 

JB: Based on the increase in retail sales over the year, on the volumes and value sold, it will be the year of over-the-counter. Since the reopening of businesses and shops, the pharmacy sales channel has been steadily growing. The institutional and retail sectors have boosted the OTC dynamic with positive results. The retail market has grown considerably, 15.5%, and the institutional demand has increased by 25% due mostly to the newly approved molecules. OTC is growing mainly due to volume and not value, as brands are chosen over generic medicines. We have collected data on OTC and concluded that it is the year of OTC and institutional markets. OTC is becoming more relevant, and the Institutional market is gaining force due to molecules being included in the basic health plan. In 2022 the institutional channel carried 66% from 63% in 2021. It is becoming more relevant in the Colombian market because the health system coverage is close to 99%. More and more molecules are accepted in health plans; people don't make out-of-pocket payments, as they can get their medication from the government.  

Data and growth numbers:  

Total Pharmaceutical market growth: 21% 

Total Market Retail growth: 15,5% 

Institutional Market growth: 25%  

EF: You joined IQVIA last October as the regional Head in Colombia; what is the mission you set for yourself in your new appointment?  

JB: In the past, I worked for IQVIA for five years, then left to manage an FMCG company and returned to IQVIA as a general manager. The market dynamics have changed, and IQVIA has had to adapt to the new Colombian reality. The Colombian model is changing and becoming more institutional and less retail. Nowadays, pharmacies or retail channels have a resemblance to convenience stores, and consumer goods gain importance because retail consumers can access the products free from the Colombian basic health plan. Now pharmacies offer a sales mix of pharma and consumer goods around (65%-35%). Our latest challenge is to adapt to the new market mix based on innovation and service models: 

  1. We look for new services for industries entering the retail market. We have new clients from other sectors, such as personal care and foodstuffs that come to us to understand the pharmacy market.  
  2. We use innovation to add value for our regular clients in the institutional area, collecting and correlating information from the market. Our challenge today is to adapt to the market, crossing the data provider line to become a business partner. We have shifted from counter retail to an institutional system. 

EF: Could you elaborate on your data on growing therapeutic areas in Colombia and how you think they will evolve?  

JB:  All therapeutic areas related to respiratory are growing significantly; anti-flu medication sales are growing at a 68% rate; expectorants are up at 71%, and pharyngeal decongestants at 80%. During the pandemic, we were isolated and wore face masks, so we stopped getting the flu. Returning to our normal activities and children returning to school –the biggest flu source- has made all the OTC products explode in the retail sector. 

EF: Is there an increase in partnerships since the pandemic? Could you elaborate on collaborations between companies or the public sector and how you partner with other stakeholders?  

JB: The health sector is interested in working collectively for a common objective; we collaborate with different associations and vaccine development is the clearest example that we can work together, however,  in Colombia, there is still an opportunity to keep working on improving our cultural barrier to collaboration. We have a lot of work to do to achieve what we call "co-ompetence," defined as collaboration between competitors. We are still far from integrating the different parts of the entire health system, and I refer to the government, the unions, manufacturers, suppliers, and service providers. IQVIA has the advantage that being a multinational, with all the structures and compliance procedures in place, we generate confidence in the sector and can participate in promoting collaboration to reach a common goal between the different sector players. But we still have to work on cultural issues to get there. To move forward, we have to align the goals of all stakeholders.

EF: Does IQVIA see Colombia as a healthcare hub for Latin America? And is this supported by data?  

JB: Colombia is the third country in Latin America; many pharmaceutical companies have given Colombia relevance. I believe Colombia articulates the region's companies' insights and metrics to be active beyond the country's borders.  

EF: How is IQVIA diversifying and branching into new areas? Where are you heading in Colombia? 

JB: IQVIA has been known for market information and retail business, but we have diversified into new business areas: 

  1. Contract Sales: our fastest growing area, we work alongside companies of the sector in services such as patient follow-up, medical visits to manufacturers, and point of retail sale transfer 
  2. Consulting: also fast-growing, we give answers to the specific questions required by industry members.  
  3. Prescription: working with a base of 160 thousand doctors, we check their prescriptive profile and back up companies in marketing strategies 
  4. Commercial Tech: using technology, IQVIA assists organizations in managing internal information for transparent decision-making, be they our sources or a third-party source. 
  5. One Key: working jointly with the companies, we have a doctors' database, which is constantly updated to support organizations in marketing strategies.  
  6. RWI 22:53, we work with the industry on econometric studies. After Contract Sales, it is our fastest-growing sector. 

Due to changes in the retail and institutional market, we had to expand our knowledge, adapt and transform our information business, including new categories and search for information in the institutional channel to introduce in the public health sector to generate value. We are strong believers in innovation, and we must innovate.  

EF: What advice would you give to the next generation of Colombians looking to follow in your footsteps and become leaders in the health sector? 

JB: The best advice I can give is to balance strategy and execution. Nowadays, and in all sectors, the market demands that people comprehend, diagnose, have a plan, and execute it. Indicating the direction is not enough, especially if you don't make it to the end, and it is not enough to arrive if you are unsure which way to go. And to do this, above all, balance is needed; without balance between strategy and execution, it won't work out. 

EF: Next month, you celebrate your first year in your current position… 

JB: Yes, and it has been a great year; our growth has been fantastic, which will make 2023 very challenging. 

EF: What are the key topics in healthcare that people will talk about in Q4 and 2023?  

JB: Colombia has a lot of hot topics on the table. Five reforms that will impact the situation in Colombia for 2023: i) Health reform, ii) Labor reform, iii) Agrarian reform, iv) Pension reform, and v) Tax reform. There is no formal proposal, conversations are going on, but nothing is clear. All the reforms are related, but the most important point in health reform is whether or not the EPSs will be abolished. As the EPSs are at the very bottom of the triangle, I don't see them abolishing them all; from the 31 we have today, maybe 7 to 5 strong ones will remain in a mixed model.  

EF: When you look back at the first year of your tenure, of which achievement are you most proud? 

JB: Culture. We have been working on IQVIA´s culture in Colombia. In every company, the people achieve results, but there must be a company culture for the best results. Our culture focuses on making things simple and making them happen. That has to go in hand with a series of actions, but fundamentally, it is about culture. Somebody once said Culture = how we do things around here; for me, it is the best definition of culture.  

EF: Is there any final message you would like to share with our readers? 

JB: Better together! We must change the Colombian mindset to overcome this fear of sharing information or a company knowing the strategy of another. We need to change the culture in Colombia and work together, make things simple and make them happen. With everyone on the same page, it would be easy to move forward. We must get close to the government to understand first-hand what they want, so we can articulate the sector and be a neutral player for the benefit of Colombia.

September 2022