Read the Conversation

EF: What was your main mission when you assumed your new role as General Manager at Aché?

JM: Aché is a well-known company with an outstanding reputation in Brazil. My role focuses on continuing this company's success and consolidating market gains. Our ultimate goal is the long-term continuous success of Aché.

EF: Could you elaborate on the footprint you have in Brazil?

JM: Aché was founded in 1966. We currently carry 403 brands, 1100 presentations in 21 medical specialties, and 155 therapeutic classes. We are a major healthcare company with 5,700 employees in the company. In the last five years, we have brought 176 products to the market. Innovation is part of our DNA.

Regarding manufacturing, our operations span five plants across four states. Specifically, two are in Sao Paulo, one in Guarulhos, and one in Naçoes Unidas. Additionally, we have a plant in Parana, South Brazil, focused on antibiotics, and one in Goias dedicated to hormones. Our latest state-of-the-art facility, located in Pernambuco, northeastern Brazil, is seamlessly integrated with Industry 4.0 principles. Our production output last year amounted to roughly 300 million units.  

Last year, we achieved a net revenue of five billion reais with an EBITDA margin of 28.5 percent. We distributed 2.9 billion in added value to society and earned an AAA company rating from Fitch and Standard and Poor's in Brazil.  

WJ: We are the 4th largest company in the Brazilian pharmaceutical market and oscillate between the second and third position in the prescription drug market, actively seeking to regain our leadership.

EF: Brazil seeks to achieve 70 percent coverage for its healthcare needs through national production. Is this feasible? And what are the advantages and challenges of being a national company?

JM: That goal is feasible, and we have almost reached it.
We are a Brazilian company with a multinational impact. We export to more than 20 countries and are present in Latin America, Europe, Africa, and Asia. However, the advantage of being a national company is that we understand the market, the culture, the health system, and the doctors of the country we operate in. While many multinationals look at this location as a source of revenue, for us, it is more than this. We are interested in the health of the Brazilian population. That is the primary reason for our existence. We are always looking at how to serve our doctors and give our patients the best treatment.

EF: How is Aché pushing innovation in Brazil, and what are your company's active initiatives in the field of R&D?

WJ: Innovation is one of our main focuses. We put the patient at the center of all our activities, broadening the spectrum for innovation. For us, it is not just about creating new medicines but new forms of treatment, concentrations, devices, and delivery systems that suit our patients' needs.

JM: We have a strong portfolio of respiratory disease treatments and are now moving forward, seizing new opportunities in new specialties like cardio, central nervous system, and gastro. We pursue innovation by seeking opportunities for new treatments that we can bring to Brazil. Our 400 people in R&D decide where we will invest and start developing our projects.

Only last year, we launched 20 new products and invested over 300 million reais in innovation with a full focus on project execution. Today, we have 266 projects under development in our pipeline. Sixty percent of these are considered innovative for the Brazilian market.  
In the radical innovation segment, we have 12 projects, eight of which originate from Brazilian biodiversity. We registered significant progress in clinical studies and finalized 36 studies in this country.  

Innovation is important but giving access to it even more. Therefore, we also innovate in terms of our reach. Aché has a life-care program called “Cuidados Pela Vida”. This program aims to give patients better access to healthcare solutions and encompasses 23 million people. This year, we are forecasting to add 3.7 million more people to this initiative, which represents a 130 percent growth compared to last year.  

EF: How is Aché integrating AI and digital tools into its business?

JM: The digital transformation is strongly linked to innovation. We are bringing in digital tools to manage our treatment systems and patient-and-doctor relationships. We are also using artificial intelligence to predict patients’ needs.

We started an open innovation initiative where we solicited partnerships with startups focused on digital and artificial intelligence solutions. Four hundred startups subscribe to our programs, and after a thorough evaluation cycle, we moved eight projects onto the pilot phase. These startups are helping us solve many challenges related to ESG, sustainability, packaging, information, and doctor prescriptions.  

WJ: Adding a tech element to all our systems brings innovation to the country beyond our portfolio. Knowing that the Brazilian market is almost 100 percent out of pocket, access is fundamental. With innovation along the whole business chain, we are changing our relations with patients and doctors. We want physicians all over the county to have the same access to medical information and fulfill our responsibility of supplying them with the best treatments available to their patients.

EF: Do you see Brazil advancing as an innovation hub in the future?

JM: For nine years in a row, we have been awarded as the most innovative pharmaceutical and life science company from a value perspective. As a Brazilian company, we do not have all the resources and revenue of multinationals to do breakthrough innovation. Instead, we partner with other stakeholders, such as Bionovis, a company in which we are shareholders and handle our bio-innovation portfolio. We select opportunities in bioingredients and biomedicine, which we then pursue with our partners.

WJ: In our portfolio, besides respiratory, one of our lead franchises is in cardiology. In this field, our biggest product is a fixed-dose combination. Hence, we are not innovating with new molecules; but innovating in how we put molecules together for the patient's benefit. By looking at the patient needs, we are changing the innovation landscape in Brazil, and partnerships are a productive way to innovate faster.

EF: How is Aché attracting and retaining the best talent?

JM: The main element we consider when attracting talent is the purpose of our company. After the pandemic, health became a priority for everyone. Aché focuses on improving patients' lives, and this mission appeals to many potential employees. We are also one of the largest local companies, have a good reputation, and are considered one of the best workplaces in Brazil.

Since the pandemic, we have faced challenges as people no longer want to visit the office daily. We now operate a hybrid system of three days on-site and two days in flexible mode. For our 300 representatives on the ground, visiting and calling doctors every day, we have found a way to integrate better tools and online communication services to digitalize their work.
Currently, eighty percent of our human capital is on-site, while twenty percent of our administrative staff are on a flexible remote schedule. With the right communication technology, this model works very well for us.

EF: What are some of your goals and objectives for the future?

WJ: The health industry is one of the most personal industries worldwide, and we try to highlight this to our employees. We, too, use the products that we produce. With personal commitment, we pursue the biggest challenge and goal we have as a company: increase market share and become leaders as an admired and respected company. We want to be the reference for our patients and physicians nationwide.

JM: We want to bring different and relevant innovations to the market and help more patients. If we can reach 100 million patients in Brazil with our products, we can help 100 million people to be healthier and live longer. I see great value in what we do and am proud to generate a difference in people's lives.

September 2023