Read the Conversation
EF: Tell us the mission you were given when appointed?
MD: I was appointed on the 1st of February 2021, which was the beginning of the second, yet worst wave in Brazil. Hospitals were completely full and the vaccine had not yet been approved by the government as there was a lot of scrutiny going on. My role was to work with the government in the vaccine negotiations with my mission being to be able to close the vaccine deal because Brazil really needed it.
The second mission I had was warranting continuity of the business, the health and security of our colleagues as Covid was affecting everyone, and warranting our operations since we weren't just selling vaccines, we were also selling lifesaving products. We needed to make sure we were supplying medicines to doctors and that people were committed to the mission, especially with the difficulty of colleagues working from home. Looking back, we did everything we could and did our best.
EF: If you had to design a master's in the future to get executives ready to navigate something like this, what two subjects would you consider essential?
MD: I would never have applied to an MPA, but the pandemic was a huge learning experience for all of us. So, the first thing is we need to learn how to manage uncertainty. We're used to managing business uncertainty, but not to the level of Covid. It caught us off-guard and no one really expected it to last as long as it did, and still has.
The second piece is detecting the opportunities because even in an area of uncertainty and change, there are always new opportunities. For example, as hard as this is, hospitals were full and that was an opportunity that led them to detect those areas and find ways of fulfilling them. For example, an opportunity that arose from Covid was telemedicine, this meant learning new ways of working through new challenges.
EF: Looking back, 2020 was a year of diagnosis and prevention, and 2021 was a year of vaccines, what do you think 2022 will be the year of?
MD: 2022 is a new era. It's a year when we're coming back and embracing a new reality. For example, flexible working arrangements that allow employees to work from home and the office as well. The future of 2022 looks very different from the past in terms of how the internal ways of working are changing. Telemedicine is being widely accepted and embraced as it is so much easier to get now. So 2022 will definitely be a year that'll maintain new habits.
EF: How difficult or easy was it to secure resources for Brazil?
MD: Brazil is one of the biggest markets for us as we are in the top 10 biggest markets in America, so it's a big organization in the company. So much so, that when the company wants to launch a new project, Brazil ends up being chosen very often, so I don't think we had an issue securing resources for Brazil in that regard. It's very often that people want to test in Brazil and if it works, it's definitely going to work everywhere else. Also, from a corporate perspective, global teams have Brazil pretty much top of mind, as it has a big population and it's important from a political and geopolitical macroeconomic perspective.
EF: Tell us about what the portfolio looks like in Brazil and are you excited about any special therapies that you're bringing or something in the portfolio that you're excited about?
MD: So we have big therapeutic areas in Brazil. We have vaccines, internal medicine, hospital oncology, rare diseases, and inflammation. During the pandemic, vaccines were one of our key focus areas of attention and many of our products were being used in the ICU, which is where the Covid patients were. Lots of the focus shifted to Covid when, in reality, many chronic and rare disease treatments and diagnoses were stopped or postponed which affected the health of many patients. This meant that Covid vaccination rates were very high, but the rest went down significantly, still increasing the risk for Brazil. We're still having issues in that area and are trying to raise awareness of that problem so we can do something about it as a country because we need to ramp up other vaccines.
However, going forward in the current portfolio, we have 140 products, but almost 100 products in the pipeline which I think is the biggest pilot we've ever had, if I'm not wrong. It's very exciting for us and we have the objective of launching 25 breakthrough therapies by 2025. There are many areas of interest and this pandemic is one of the things it brought. There was a lot of investment and excitement about science.
We also have an interest in therapies and have a few products that could radically change the lives of people with these diseases, and this has opened huge opportunities for the pharma and healthcare industry and we're really hoping that there's going to be a boom of treatments for rare diseases.
The other one is MRNA which is an old technology vaccine that was the first product on the market with that technology, and it proved this technology works. This has put a lot of hope on that technology, not only for vaccines but also for other therapies. I think in the future, we are going to see more of those technologies coming to the market in Pfizer's portfolio, but also in the portfolio of other pharma companies that are ready to revolutionize the pharma and the healthcare environment.
EF: How do you see the implementation of digitalization changing the business in the future and what is your take on how digital can improve access?
MD: Digital has many facets, for example, one of the facets could be a patient that now utilizes telecommunication, so they have an app to check their vitals, communicate with their doctor, ask for vaccinations, and get information. Now, the technology side has become strategic and part of our business. Managing data involving interactions with doctors and patients are all managed by using technology. We are open to providing new solutions and capitalizing on new opportunities that we didn’t have before by incorporating new ideas and knowledge into the solutions. All these things are going to materialize, and flexibility is a key asset as the future is about uncertainty, so we need creative people willing to adapt.
Now the future will see lots of young people filling the science and technology careers such as engineering, data science, biotechnology, etc. So, we will need more of those profiles and people moving around and allowing wiggle room to work in a sector that you haven't specialized in but have gained a lot of experience in the work industry.
Now, you were also talking about access, and I think that's going to be critical in data prevalence, data diagnosis, and pretty much patient data since this information is used by the government to make decisions about coverage. So digital transformation is multifaceted but clearly, it's going to affect every aspect of our lives. Even working from home means digital transformation.
EF: How would you rate the level of adoption of the different digital tools in Brazil?
MD: I don't see a big difference in Brazil versus other places. I think digitalization has come in a global wave. I see people here using mobile as much or more than we use in Europe, and the systems are interconnected. Health-related information is probably a bit more developed in developed markets, and that's a gap we have here in the emerging market. But the openness about that is big, and we have all had big expectations with digitalization, and more is to be expected in the future.
EF: Looking forward, what would you like to accomplish in Brazil?
MD: Digital transformation is one of my goals. We have it as a company in Latin America, but I really want to accomplish that transformation in Brazil, and when I'm talking transformation, I'm not only referring to digital transformation but behavioural transformation as well. So now we're going to take into account the needs and expectations of a patient and figure out how we're going to operate by putting the needs of the patient first.
The second one is agility, as this world requires a lot of agility and a lot of transformation, and we can only get there if we get those habits and those behaviours sorted, and how we can operate quicker because the world moves very fast. We want to be the first and the best by focusing on the patient problems, the problems of the healthcare system, and how we can solve them. And we want to be a contributing factor in the improvement of the healthcare system by making it better for other patients.
EF: Any final message you would like to share?
MD: We are helping shape the transformation of our sector by leading the conversation with key stakeholders, government, patient advocacy groups, and other entities by trying to see how we can better evolve the policy landscape in terms of healthcare. This is something we're trying to do and that we were able to do with Covid.
We are also trying to replicate our commitment to change the environment, to search for new therapies or new things that improve patients' life in other areas, and to do that, we have to collaborate by seeing how we can better lead that conversation to the important entities.