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EF: What is the reach of mental diseases and how are you working to improve access in this area in Mexico?
SM: People affected by psychiatric and neurological disorders represent approximately 50% of the total disease burden. According to the Mexican National Survey of Psychiatric Epidemiology, 30% of the Mexican population suffers from some type of mental disorder disease. Depression occupies an important place, about 9.1%, in the range of mental conditions. Through the improvement of medical treatments and constant attention to the needs of the patients we want to address the problem and advocate awareness of the economic and social environment represented by psychiatric and neurological disorders. Regarding access, we work with multiple stakeholders, such as government authorities, society, and family caregivers in aid of achieving a better quality of life for our patients with Psychiatric and neurological disorders.
EF: What was the mission you were given when appointed head of Mexico, Caribbean, and Andean region?
SM: I am the GM for 17 countries -Mexico and Latin America and my main objective and firm commitment is to reinforce our position in the region as a laboratory for innovation that improves quality of life for patients with neurological and psychiatric diseases.
EF: What is the strategy you are employing to achieve growth?
SM: We currently use different strategies per region to achieve growth: in Mexico we are pushing forward innovation, as well as in Latin America. In the coming years we have new launches planned for Mexico which will open new opportunities.
EF: Lundbeck’s pipeline of new products looks promising, what is the portfolio of products you have today in Mexico and in the region, and what is your approach on introducing new products into the market?
SM: Lundbeck is the only company focused 100% on neurology and psychiatry (CNS), and we are unique specialists in these two areas. We are working on creating awareness and patient acceptance of ever-increasing opportunities to tackle the CNS. We have on-going development treatment in our R&D effort using about 25% of our revenue in the creation of drugs for depression, schizophrenia, migraine, sleep disorder and Alzheimer’s Disease. We have an international department with more than 1200 employees dedicated exclusively to this area, the research organization is in Copenhagen and California. Development headquarters are also situated in Copenhagen, Denmark with clinical research and regulatory personnel spread worldwide. In the last year we launched a product for schizophrenia and for depression, for January 2021 we plan to launch two other products -one for depression- and in 2022 a product for bipolar disorder and for migraine with a quarterly dosage, which will be the first biological product we will launch.
EF: How does the awareness of CNS and the launching of its products compare in European markets as opposed to Mexican markets?
SM: Because markets are different around the world, we work with local professionals that provide us with market analysis for each country. The European and Latin American markets are completely different, and different strategies need to be adopted. The average age of CNS patients in Mexico is 27 whereas in Europe it is over 50 years of age. The nature of the disease is also different, in Mexico we have a higher percentage in depression, anxiety and schizophrenia, whereas Alzheimer’s Disease or Parkinson’s Disease are more likely to be found in Europe, as the average age of the population there is higher.
EF: In reference to the impact you mention, what are the initiatives Lundbeck is working on to educate the population on CNS?
SM: We work with different stakeholders, patient associations, government, and caregivers to whom we give a holistic view of the situation with different platforms in mind. We talk about the disease, the necessary care involved, best practices; we continue learning from and with physicians using different strategies with each stakeholder, helping them raising awareness of the illness, so they are better prepared to treat and care for the patients to improve their quality of life with our holistic approach.
EF: Are the programs already rolled out in the region or are they part of your mission to enhance and grow the region?
SM: In our region there is a huge opportunity to grow as well as in Mexico, which currently represents between 75 and 80% of the business. As we are expanding to the rest of the region, we are implementing different growth strategies depending on the country. At the same time, we are working on communication, on awareness with patient associations and the government to spread our ideas and homogenize and standardize the region.
EF: Mexico has been through a lot of changes in the last two years, what is your advice to other managers in regard to navigating in times of transition in a highly regulated market?
SM: I do think the world is changing and that there are new challenges. Lundbeck is a global company with truly clear guidelines we must follow while adapting locally. In Mexico we are currently in phase 3 of the outbreak of COVID, I supervise a region that includes 17 countries, and we must adapt to the decisions of each local authority supporting the local environment. Since mid-March, COVID has advanced very quickly in Latin America and we have implemented different strategies to keep our employees safe. We introduced remote work for all employees in the region since the 16th of March, and since the 23rd of March in Mexico. We have assembled a COVID Committee to analyze the situation, represented by employees taken from our different teams (medical, marketing, human resources, distribution, commercial etc.) holding daily meetings to assess the situation showing our commitment with our employees, and ensuring they take care of themselves and their families. We have increased our funding to AMIIF and we have donated money to the government for the fight against COVID. We are providing masks and gel to our employees to be prepared when the government reopens free transit in the city. We are training and assisting physicians to deal with Coronavirus using the experience of other countries like China and Spain to help in the countries which are just beginning with the pandemic transferring knowledge and experience. I stay close to my employees and collaborators and strive to give them the necessary strength and confidence so they understand they have my support as well as the support of the company in the future decisions we will make.
EF: What would be the final message you would like to share with the Fortune readers on the role that health transformers have today and into the future?
SM: My final message relies on communicating the importance of mental health as these diseases have an impact at a social and economic level; we need to invest a lot more resources, especially as the population gets older year by year. So, we must reinforce our objective today. We strive to be the benchmark in mental health, and it is a great honor for us to be helping people to live with their mental conditions and making everybody aware of the existence of mental diseases at all levels. We must work together, educate people to use the right language and semantics and take care of the people who suffer mental diseases. We are stronger if we stand together with working for the benefit of the patients.