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EF: What do you think 2022 will be the year of?
RA: The established architecture of the productive supply throughout the world was stable and consistent before the pandemic. Uncertainty became a permanent fixture in our daily lives during the pandemic. Production supply chain disruptions are no longer shocking. We must adapt to uncertainty and instability.
The world has faced several pandemics repeatedly. The difference between these pandemics is how long they last. The more recent the pandemic, the shorter it lasts. The current geopolitical scenario taking place right now has led to a lot of uncertainty for traders and businesses. At any moment, anything can happen, be it a pandemic or a war, or something as equally unpredictable. That is why we need to adapt.
Soon there will be new mandatory arrangements concerning pharmaceutical production, though it is unknown what kind of mandates they will be. Because of the disruption that occurred during the pandemic, the pharmaceutical industry is considering reshoring part of the supply chain in western countries and, in some cases, verticalizing part of the production by the pharmaceutical companies. Buyers control most of the productive chain, so decisions based on API production will come basically from the pharmaceutical industry.
EF: What was the role of FarmaBrasil during the pandemic in Brazil?
RA: We built practical and concrete bridges between our associate companies and the government. The most critical factor, in the beginning, was ensuring the fulfilment of contracts with no disruptions between our associates and suppliers. It was an intricate and invigorating process. There were federal bans on products dispatched from our suppliers' countries, so we had to go through diplomatic contacts.
Transportation was another challenge we had to solve for ourselves and our associates. Personal involvement was a necessity because it was the only way to get the transport for all the products we needed. Our embassies were heavily involved in the transportation process. That is why in every country that our hired planes landed in, our embassies would be involved in ensuring they stayed on route to Brazil. We managed to maintain the supply chain and demand on the market for all our associate companies.
In the first phase of the pandemic, people had the information that they should only look for medical assistance if they had trouble breathing so that they could be intubated. To be intubated, you had to have analgesics, opioids, and muscle relaxers. These are incredibly old medicines, most multinational pharmaceutical companies don’t produce them anymore and there was an incredible demand for them at the time. Eurofarma and Cristália had to increase more than three times their production. This was a great effort of the industry.
We made sure to keep the partnership between our associates and the government amicable to enable continuous production. ANVISA adjusted our regulatory framework to shorten the time we would need to get a supplier. There were several new and provisional items in the regulation that allowed different companies to face many of their challenges. Companies made decisions flexibly because of the new items in the regulation. Most companies bought surplus stock to prevent medical shortages in case of production disruptions in the future.
EF: How can we translate non-communicable diseases into Brazilian pharmaceutical industrial policy?
RA: I have spent most of my time in the government, from municipality to federal office, trying to implement and create new industrial policies. In 2019, FarmaBrasil and other associations of the Brazilian pharmaceutical industries prepared an industrial policy proposal presented to the new government that included increasing APIs production, monoclonal antibodies, and the use of biodiversity.
Every developed country has industrial policies that support development. The FarmaBrasil president is also the president of ALIFAR (The Latin American Association of Pharmaceutical Industries), and recently we had a seminar on integrating the production chain and APIs in the MERCOSUR region also. There are many books and guidance tools on industrial policies. The key to industrial policies is for each nation or region to create guidelines based on the decisions made through collaborations between the public and private sectors and to implement them like missions. Brazil is the third-largest producer of civil aeroplanes; we are one of the best ultradeep oil diggers globally. Even with all these accomplishments, we hope the pandemic helps illustrate how health can become a matter of national security and the strategic importance of developing an industrial policy for the country’s pharmaceutical industry.