BEYOND THE MARKET

Colombia 2016 | HEALTH & EDUCATION | VIP INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Luis Alfonso Diaz, General Manager of La Santé, on the pharmaceutical sector in Colombia and international expansion.

How has 2015 been for La Santé and how do you expect to close the year?

The company has done very well in 2015. We are focusing on three businesses: prescription, generics, and manufacturing. The generic business is doing well because we are developing our business beyond the market—while the market is growing by 9%, our business is growing by 11%. Around 70% of our sales are concentrated on our unbranded generic business. The manufacturing facility Pharmetique was bought from the German company Boehringer Ingelheim.

You mentioned that you are performing better than your competitors. Why is that?

We have launched two new products and these are doing well. La Santé also increased its market share in distribution, which is very fragmented in Colombia. We implemented some strategies to improve our distribution, especially on the wholesale level. Colombia has around 13,400 pharmacies and now La Santé is doing well in this channel, which is a big part of our success this year.

What manufacturing and distribution facilities do you have?

La Santé has five manufacturing facilities, four here in Bogotá and one in Caracas. We have two distribution centers, one in Valencia and one in Bogotá.

You bought the company Pharmetique in 2013. How has this purchase strengthened the global position of the company?

The strategy of the multinational research companies is concentrated in specialty products. We have good potential for primary care products because the R&D companies are concentrated in high biotech products. The traditional products lose their patents and then companies like ours see an opportunity in those areas. La Santé is launching innovative branded generics and this is why we are successful.

Last year President Santos passed a law that allows the manufacturing and selling of biosimilars in Colombia. Will you be involved in this market?

We plan to launch biosimilars in the future. La Santé will be involved in this segment, and we are going to launch those products, especially in the oncology and arthritis market. We expect those products to be launched in 2017.

Can you give more details on the recent development of your business in Morocco?

Part of our strategy is to launch our branded generic products in Africa and the Middle East; in some cases we have a combination of different products. We now have some distributors in the French speaking countries Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and Senegal, and we plan to partner with local distributors to launch our branded generic products. After that we plan to launch in English speaking countries like Nigeria and Kenya. Africa is a big opportunity for us because access to medicines is improving and part of the strategy of development is to improve the health of the population. That is why the branded generic products present a great opportunity to increase access.

Can you explain your plans for further development in Mexico?

In Mexico we plan to partner with local companies. We are conducting clinical trials in Mexico and this is very interesting. To launch and register a branded generic product in Mexico you need to conduct Phase III human clinical trials in the country.

Innovation is very important to the company. To what degree has this been a key factor in expanding into foreign markets?

We develop six combination branded generics here in Colombia and those products are very successful. We have one patent here and those products were part of our innovation center here in Bogotá. The idea is to launch those products in markets like Mexico, Ecuador, and Peru.

The market is expected to grow by 7%. What is your outlook for the Colombian pharmaceutical industry for the coming years?

According to some forecasts the market will continue to increase by 7-8%. It is important to mention that as opposed other countries, 90% of the population in Colombia has access to healthcare. 50% of the market is retail and 50% is institutional. This is very different for Latin America, where 30% institutional is normally the case. Both segments will increase in the future by 7-8%.

What factors are driving this growth?

The government changed the law years ago and part of its strategy is to provide healthcare to the whole population. Colombia is one of the most important models in health worldwide.

La Santé is a Colombian company. How attractive is Colombia to manufacture products and export them across the globe?

We are in a very good position to export. We are closing some contracts with big multinational companies and are now producing for the companies and exporting across many markets in Latin America. We plan to export to Africa, the Middle East, and Asia from this facility. In this regard, the devaluation is helping, but on the other hand it is impacting our cost because 70% of the raw materials in the pharmaceutical industry are imported. For local production, there has been an impact on costs but for exports the devaluation has been positive for us. Overall it has had a 50-50 impact on us.