NEVER ENDING AMBITION

Panama 2018 | HEALTH & EDUCATION | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Óscar Sentís, General Manager LATAM of ACINO, on growth in the region, competitive advantages, and medical professional education.

Óscar Sentís
BIOGRAPHY
Óscar Sentís is a Spanish industrial engineer who gathered management consultancy experience before earning his MBA from NYU Stern in 2006. He then worked for Johnson & Johnson and Amgen in Dubai within several roles in finance until he graduated from the Leadership Development Program at Harvard Business School in 2015. Sentis joined ACINO that same year, was promoted to a global position in Switzerland one year later, and then transitioned to his current role in Panama in October 2017.

What is the strategy behind your success in becoming the fastest-growing retail pharmaceutical company in Central America?

We are proud to be the fastest-growing pharma company, and the key has been to invest heavily after establishing a solid base built through compliance, reputation, and quality. We invested aggressively, mostly in our people and marketing. This investment coupled with high quality products and compliant business practices set the foundation for a sustainable business that we will continue to grow in the future. Our products are now well positioned, and brand awareness is high among patients, doctors, pharmacies, distributors, and competitors; they all recognize the quality of ACINO products.

What is your expansion strategy in Latin America?

Our expansion plans come in different forms. First, we are looking to expand our portfolio by launching our own products and in-licensing products from other pharmaceutical companies in the geographies where we currently have a presence. This portfolio expansion is focused on products that fit our core therapeutic areas: pain and antibiotics. We are also looking for partners to out-license non-priority products that are not in that same core focus; for instance, we have good gastro or cardiovascular brands outside our main lines. Second, we are always looking to enter into new geographies where we have no presence currently, either through organic expansion or partnership with a leading company. We remain fairly aggressive in terms of growth, and we are always looking for selective acquisition targets or attractive portfolios to complement our product offering in the region.

How does ACINO invest in medical education to promote its products?

Our markets are extremely price sensitive, and because of our high-quality products, we cannot always compete on price. However, we can sustain a competitive price and beat the competition on quality and service, and we rely on medical education to highlight our differentiated galenic form and its benefits. Therefore, our strategy is to leverage a scientific approach by investing in educating doctors and pharmacists in the region via seminars and even via our highly trained medical representatives. The more knowledgeable the healthcare professionals, the easier it is for them to see the value and the difference our products make.

What is your expectation for the year ahead?

We expect sales growth of 15% in 2018 and are growing even faster year to date. We have reduced some expenses and operate as a leaner organization that enables us to react faster to opportunities and threats while delivering higher profit. We also expect to grow the institutional sector, and so far, we are exceeding expectations. It is easier to maintain such a high performance with a well-trained, knowledgeable, and motivated team.

What are the main challenges of doing business in Panama in your sector?

There is a war for talent in Panama at the moment, so we all fight to get and retain the best talent. Additionally, from our experience, the regulatory agency in Panama takes the most time to approve products compared to other regional countries, although we are seeing some improvements for high-quality products, which is a start to turn that challenge into an opportunity.

What are your goals, priorities, and ambitions for ACINO for the year ahead?

Our goals are to further increase brand awareness, challenge the status quo by exploring new and better ways to improve how we serve patients, and keep growing on top of our solid foundation. ACINO's 2018 priorities are to continue developing its people, training healthcare professionals, moving quickly when opportunities arise, and sustaining the core of our success: work as a team putting patients first. ACINO LATAM's ambition is to be the best place to work for its people and become the pharma company of choice for corporations looking to out-license their products. In the end, it all boils down to expand health and wellbeing in Latin America.