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EF: 2020 was the year of diagnostics and prevention, and 2021 was the year of vaccines. In your opinion, what will 2022 be the year of?
RM: It will be the year of elective surgery. When we look at the last few years and we look at the sales and business of this year, what we experienced was a high demand for surgical products with patients coming back to the system and doctors with significant queues of elective surgery. Just to give an overview of what we do, our company specializes in oncology and we work with chemotherapy from the medicine bottle up to the patient’s vein, we take out the medicine from the bottle and deliver that to the patient. BMR Medical has products for this medicine journey inside the chemotherapy centres. At the beginning of the pandemic, we experienced a spike in sales, and suddenly our stock was consuming this. At the end of the year, we still had growth in sales but the demand was erratic.
Surgery began to recover in 2021 but not significantly, and in 2022 there has been a significant demand with patients coming in, so we start to experience a growth in patient demand for chemotherapy. As such, the wheels started rolling again which was good. In 2022 we have grown twice as much as in 2021, and we expect 2023 to be similar because of the products we were supposed to launch during the pandemic but couldn’t due to the hospital situation. We did launch products related to COVID. The world was relying on China for disposable equipment but when China shut down, it resulted in supply chain issues. To assist society in overcoming this, we started looking at in-house production and we are continuing with this portfolio as we never know when the next pandemic could be or whether it will happen. The world learned a big lesson here which was to be cautious about relying on only one country for supply.
EF: What were the biggest lessons learned in BMR from managing through a pandemic and what advice would you give to other leaders regarding the experience?
RM: The biggest lesson was on the supply chain. There are also minor things such as experiencing the lack of containers in the world which meant we had finished products from a supplier but there was a lack of logistics to bring the product to Brazil, we are still having this same problem. In the healthcare industry, especially Medtech and pharmaceuticals, it’s hard to have alternative suppliers, so when you have one, you’re significantly relying on them. The need to diversify our supply matrix has been crucial learning over the past two years. Since 2021 we took the strategic decision to have at least one alternative for supply per component or raw material, we cannot rely on one source.
EF: What do you look for in partnerships and portfolios?
RM: Brazil is a huge country with 3 different realities regarding reimbursement: SUS which is the majority of the public system, private health insurance which has lots of patients with low costs; and niche health insurance companies that bring products with added value. When looking for new opportunities, it is important to decide which market is in discussion due to the differences. A product for the public has a completely different approach than a health insurance product, and sometimes it’s hard for people outside the country to understand this due to the size of Brazil’s population and sales expectations. At BMR we carefully look at which market to target from every opportunity. One of our strategies for sales growth in our market is to build up kit packing operations. We do the kits with the right products for the Brazilian market and then we sell different products in the same packaging, but these products are chosen specifically for Brazil.
EF: How is BMR advancing with oncology treatments through collaborations and innovation?
RM: 95% of our business is done through the oncology sector and we have been investing in innovation in this area for the past decade. Right now, we have an important role in chemotherapy centres, especially in educating nurses and pharmacists on how they can better serve oncology, through our educational efforts and our products. We started looking for more radical innovations such as the one for which we partnered with Senai, which is essentially a rapid test to detect instantaneously if the patient has the gene that will dictate the treatment from that moment on. Instead of taking three months to send lab tests and provide a diagnosis, this can be done within 2 or 3 minutes. This not only allows patients to get treated sooner but is also beneficial for our economy. It’s a groundbreaking technology and innovation is at our core, it’s particularly important for the Brazilian market and Latin American markets.
EF: In what ways do you see the company growing and where do you see the company in 5 years?
RM: The idea is to increase the growth from the last 10 years with innovation. Right now, in Brazil, we are the top company for chemotherapy centres, and we want to increase that value by being the one-stop shop for any chemotherapy. Not only from bottle to vein but we want to look at the whole process and understand how we can leverage our presence in this important market, sell more products and increase innovation.
EF: What advice would you give to other MedTech leaders that are competing in such a significant market?
RM: The main thing that drives demand in Brazil is to be clinically close to the healthcare system, so education is key for any sales. What matters is keeping the patient in mind and putting them first. Teach your employees to understand this and give better service to the patient and you will not only get customers, but you will get fans, it’s a huge network effect. Putting the patient’s safety and quality of health first will result in success in the country.
EF: Is there anything else you would like to add?
RM: We made important steps for digitalization such as the Omni Channel for user experience, including quick text messages for our customers during the pandemic. We increased our e-commerce capabilities for B2B customers and gave them more power and control over their orders. The pandemic accelerated this transformation and we had to adapt quickly. Changing culture is not easy but the results were positive.