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EF: What was the role of Stendhal during the pandemic?

RR: The role of Stendhal during the pandemic was to continue providing care to all patients that receive our therapies. There were many challenges, especially with patients that were not attending hospitals to receive their treatments, which meant that we had to adopt different approaches to assure all patients received our treatments on time. We implemented new strategies very fast and provided different tools to physicians, for example, telemedicine. Gladly, two years ago we started adopting digital tools, so from that perspective, we had the organization ready to deliver and satisfy all the needs of the patients. 

EF: Can you elaborate on the footprint of Stendhal in Mexico and the region? 

RR: Our mission is to continue bringing physicians the products to satisfy the unmet needs of patients, in our business model, our R&D department is all around the world. I'm constantly looking at different companies and their developments and seeing if these developments can help our community. In this case, we would work with them to bring the molecule. In some of the cases, we partner with them to represent these companies in Latin America. We operate in Mexico, in Central America, all the Caribbean, and the Andean region: we have business in Colombia, Ecuador, and offices in Venezuela. We also have partners in Brazil and Argentina. So when we have a multinational company that requires us to provide a Latin America access strategy, we work with these companies in Brazil and Argentina, to provide a full solution for the partner.

EF: What are the lessons learned that you can share from managing this past year and throughout the Pandemic?

RR: From a management perspective, I learned the importance of being close to people. To be close does not necessarily mean to be face to face together, but we learned to stay close on a virtual platform, to be mindful. I have been close to all the Stendhal employees, and I encouraged all the executive committee to do the same. We started developing different activities and having different forums with different areas of the company to ensure everybody was up to date, being taken care of, and understanding all the challenges and needs of the different employees at all levels. That was crucial in ensuring everyone was engaged in what we were going through.  We have this engagement platform that we measure yearly through "Wilson learning". Last year our score increased beside the pandemic. That also shows that all the initiatives we implemented provided their benefits. We did the same also with our physicians. We stopped calling to promote our products, and we used that time to strengthen our relationship with the physicians. Understand what they were needing at that time, and how we as an industry could support them to provide better care to the patients and on their role in their institutions. 

To summarize, the first learning is to be close to the employees and the customers. The second one is to relearn and reinvent yourself. What I value in an executive is for them to have the ability to relearn. The capacity to realize that something does not work anymore, and you need to adapt. Another valued skill is resiliency. All of these learnings brought us very good results.

EF: In managing through such a tactic year, did you have different KPIs during this past year, or what new KPIs did you add?

RR: We're still adjusting on which are the KPIs that are impacting the customer and our employees. 

Before the pandemic, we used traditional financial and commercial KPIs. We realized early that those KPIs were no longer useful to manage during the pandemic. We have invested in developing CRMs, and tools to measure interactions between the organization and the physicians. Suddenly, you realize that there were no tools in the market to measure the new digital interactions: text messages, SMS, etc. We went back to the basics, back to using Excel. Based on that, we developed a new business model. Of course, we evolved and we have more precise tools to this end. We started focusing on measuring the digital adoption of the physicians to understand what would happen when the pandemic ended. Suddenly, you find yourself in a position where you need to understand if a technology came to stay or if you need to find a hybrid model or return to how business was before. Other KPIs used were to measure the engagement of our team, and we started measuring also that to ensure that we can provide the right tools so they can work correctly and continue delivering the results that we were expecting from them.

EF: As a Mexican player, what were the biggest challenges in supply chain and manufacturing capacities?

RR: In Stendhal, we have different partnerships across the globe; we have partners in Asia, in Europe, in Australia, and in the US. With our partners, we need to send them the sales forecast 12 months in advance. Although we didn't have any issues from a supply perspective, at a certain point, we had some delays from the products coming from Asia. This was when the pandemic started, and we needed to find a supplier, but this was a one-time situation that we managed to solve very quickly.

EF: Can you elaborate on your product portfolio, and how it evolved in each therapeutic area during the pandemic?

RR: Fortunately, we achieved outstanding results in all the different therapeutic areas. For the fourth year in a row, we have achieved double-digit growth. The therapeutic areas that grew less were oncology in Mexico, and also MS in Central America. 

Suddenly, the flow of patients is reduced. Hospitals did not accept new consultations, which meant no new patients getting their treatment in 2020. For all the other therapies, based on the strategies that we were able to implement, we saw robust growth. In hospital therapies, we have some antibiotics and antimycotics. The use of those products increased because of all the patients that were in the ICUs. We also noticed a shift in patient behaviour. Before the pandemic, treatment adherence was not optimal, and we realized that patients started to be more conscious of the need to adhere to their treatment. This is a positive thing that the pandemic brought us is patient awareness on treatment adherence.

EF: How can we restore the importance of chronic diseases in a world focused on COVID-19?

RR: This is one of the biggest challenges during these times as an industry. There was a shift in communication, fully oriented to COVID-19. We stopped talking about other diseases. Patients still need to go to the hospitals, as they still are getting ill from other diseases. Oncology patients started arriving late to the hospitals, and this can change the patient outcome. We need to work together with the industry, hospitals, and also the government. Education is key. In Central America, people are still afraid to go to hospitals. 

Vaccination programs in some countries are still very delayed. So this behaviour depends on the status of each country. In Mexico, we need to provide confidence to the patient, and to help patients, once again go to the hospitals as we increase the immunity of the population.

EF: What does access mean to you?

RR: Access is to ensure that the patient gets the product it needs.  We always talk about innovation, but if the patient cannot use the product, then you don't have access and you have a problem.

EF: What do you envision are going to be the resources needed for pharma companies of the future? How can we make the pharma industry attractive to them as a great place to work?

RR: Everything is about the mission and vision. What I love about pharma is when you realize that what you are providing is changing people's lives. In some cases, we make the difference between life and death. People need to understand the impact we can make. 

 If all employees are very clear about that mission, they start living the mission, they start enjoying the mission, and they start feeling proud about working in Stendhal. Its purpose is what drives the new generation.

EF: When you look back into this moment in your career, What would you like your tenure to be remembered for?

RR: I want to be remembered as a company that made a difference to the patients. As an industry, we made it clear that our main objective was to provide care to patients. We will remember that we do whatever it takes, to provide for the patients and to satisfy the needs of patients. All the companies were very clear on their objectives, and we all maintained that we just adjusted our strategies, to be able to do it. We did not change our purpose, and we showed how collaboration is also part of the strategies we can adopt to ensure the greater good. All multinational companies were working together since the beginning to make a difference to the patients. We have shown as an industry that we truly have the patient in the centre of the equation. I'm sure all the companies in AMIIF share that same perspective.

With the pandemic, we have proved that it's much better to work as a team, as companies, than to be isolated. Companies that were competitors that started working together to provide health to people is the most important thing that happened during the pandemic. That same happens with the government, and with different institutions. It's not an effort of one company or one government, it's a worldwide effort between all stakeholders. When you can put all those things together, everything works better.

The challenge that we do have as an industry and also as different countries is that sometimes, it's easy to forget. When you leave something like this pandemic, and you do not change your mental models and change the way you use to do things, it's a shame, because then you prove that you did not learn anything. The most important challenge is to show the world that we lived very tough moments, but that we learn from those moments, and that we're going to become a better industry working together for that for the patient.

June 2021