DR. JULIO CESAR ALDANA BULA

Colombia 2020 | HEALTH & EDUCATION | VIP INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Dr. Julio Cesar Aldana Bula, General Director of Invima,on technology, medical cannabis, and building prestige.

How does Invima seek to reduce waiting times and procedures in the medical sector through technology?

Digital transformation is also a tool to fight corruption, to be more transparent and efficient. Part of that digital transformation affects our six regional offices. As a result of digital transformation and a restructuring of all these regional offices, we seek to ensure these valuable entrepreneurs in the regions can access the sanitary registry through tools. Additionally, we need to generate alliances with the academy and other state institutions such as chambers of commerce. Hence, we are working in all regions doing workshops to build the health status. They consist of training people because we have valuable entrepreneurs in several regions of the country with wonderful business plans, though they have no knowledge of the relevance that complying with sanitary standards has on public health.

How does Invima plan to continue increasing scientific rigor and vigilance, particularly in the field of medical and cosmetic cannabis?

Invima does not have the nature of promoting entrepreneurship, economic development, or anything similar. Invima is a health authority, though health interests do not have to collide with business interests. Many times they can be reconciled when the interests are legitimate, and we agree on the purpose of promoting public health. In this government, we have a clear and defined policy regarding the use of medical cannabis. We respect the autonomy of nations that have accepted the use of recreational cannabis, though in Colombia, the use of cannabis is restricted to medicinal use. That does not prevent us from moving forward, for example, in something that the industry demands. In fact, we have already done it in the cosmetics sector, where there are more than 300 health records. Compared to other countries, such as Canada, Colombia has made great efforts. There are certain business developments that we cannot ignore as long as we have a single roadmap based on scientific rigor. With science, we can define specific uses and a timely development of cannabis around the needs in the world of medicine, for example, pain and inflammation, insomnia, anxiety, muscle spasticity in some specific diseases, issues of refractory epilepsy in specific syndromes, and so on. Colombia must hold on to scientific rigor to boost that industry. The country is a pioneer in regulatory matters in the region. People perceive Invima as one of the most problematic organizations, but I want to ensure serious quality standards of safety and efficacy, in order to strengthen public health which is my primary purpose. Though when the industrial and business interest are legitimate it doesn't have lo clash with health interest.

How is Invima facilitating the success of the medical cannabis business, and what are your short and medium-term expectations about its role in the face of a rapidly developing market?

I only see Invima in its role as health authority. Moreover, we have a standard that has advanced and cannot be stagnant. Colombia has to move ahead in issuing excellent manufacturing practices to make the market for master products a reality. Also, we have to keep moving forward so that there is more transformation, more physiotherapeutic products, so that there are more products based on chemical synthesis, but all done with scientific rigor. There are many instances of the government seeing how to promote this without neglecting public health interests.

How does Colombia stand in comparison to the region in terms of medical cannabis?

I see Invima focused on health issues, quality, safety, efficiency, and good manufacturing practices, so that products can access international markets. However, there is a road traveled by investors already settled in the medical cannabis industry. A large part of the establishments I visited in Canada are from investors present in Colombia, so there is transparency of knowledge and technology that gives us peace of mind as a health authority. When one sees the developments of many of those industries in Colombia, they realize many industries are allied with those that already have an important path. That gives us peace of mind in health matters. The rigor I saw in Canada around production is extremely high.

As one the most important authorities in Colombia, what is your outlook for the 2020?

Essentially, we seek to build prestige. To have prestige, society must recognize it. We are the health authority that promotes and protects the public's health through the surveillance of a universe of very important products that people use and consume on daily basis. This recognition is the most important and is achieved through transparency, efficiency, and hygienic conditions. We have advanced significantly in the area of food, cosmetics and medical devices. We have facilitated procedures and eliminated some. The pharmaceutical issue has cost us greatly. It has been more difficult to move forward. It will take us more time but we will do it.