Interview with Katerina Pogodina, General Director Russia & CIS, Johnson & Johnson
Published on 25 May 2020 by Anna Andriyanova
Adam Smith Conferences: How has the coronavirus pandemic affected the Russian pharmaceutical market?
Katerina Pogodina: The new coronavirus pandemic is a challenge for both the Russian and global healthcare system and pharmaceutical industry. Our company, as others in the industry, is trying to provide maximum support to the healthcare system and patients, seeking to be a part of the solution, not part of the problem.
Our priorities remain the same: we strive to implement innovation in medicine, guided by patient needs. I think that today our work is of critical importance and we need to focus on supporting the healthcare system, our patients and our employees. We need to provide uninterrupted drug production and distribution, including many lifesaving ones, whilst protecting our staff’s health. At the same time, given the workload and the pressure on our healthcare system, we need to focus on real patient outcomes, introducing patient support programmes and realising other projects that help preserve the health, the quality of life and in some cases, save lives of our patients.
Only after some time will it be possible to objectively evaluate the results of an industry-wide effort, and its tangible and intangible input into fighting COVID-19.
Adam Smith Conferences: What changes can we expect in the coming months? What challenges are pharmaceutical companies facing and what is being done to mitigate the risks?
Katerina Pogodina: The pandemic has put the healthcare system and the pharmaceutical industry in the spotlight. In a matter of days, the search for a new coronavirus vaccine, testing methods and therapies have been prioritised over all other issues. The mass media reports on the scientific and research work of local and global players almost daily. Specifically, at the end of March, Johnson & Johnson announced a promising vaccine candidate against COVID-19. The company is planning to launch human clinical trials no later than September 2020, expecting the first vaccine shipment to receive fast track approval for use at the beginning of 2021.
In these unprecedented times, when the most difficult issues are raised and priorities requiring special attention identified, some progressive decisions have been made. For example, a law permitting online retail of medicine, the potential reversal of the “odd one out” procurement rule, a push to further develop telemedicine and the introduction of advanced communication tools (remote working for the majority of staff or online training events for medical specialists). I hope that these solutions and tools establish themselves on the market and become common practice after the pandemic is over.
Today’s situation may bring about profound changes in the direction of development of the Russian healthcare system, including the evaluation of infrastructure, disease prevention and a shift of budget allocation towards investment.
Adam Smith Conferences: What measures are being taken by your organisation to secure an uninterrupted supply of medication to patients and hospitals during the crisis?
Katerina Pogodina: Our company has repeatedly and on different levels confirmed its ability to provide uninterrupted product and medicine supply. We have organised safe working conditions for our staff, introduced additional health and safety measures, and thus continue to work.
We produce all required medications and guarantee continuous supply to our distributors. We can’t go into a lockdown or reduce production volumes because our product ranges are included on the Vital and Essential Drugs list and the High-cost Nosology programme. Rare disease, cancer and neurological treatments can’t be cancelled – the patients need us now.
Adam Smith Conferences: What kind of state support and what strategic decisions do companies operating in Russia need to respond to the current circumstances?
Katerina Pogodina: The scope and size of state support for businesses depend directly on which industry the business operates in. Pharmaceutical companies continue operating even in the current circumstances because the ability to provide patients with essential therapies depends directly on us.
The current situation demonstrates the importance of an active and constructive dialogue between all healthcare system players and how critical it is for each party to have the ability to respond to external challenges. The current situation has provided an apt time to introduce some positive changes to the healthcare system, for example, in the area of implementation of innovative solutions and platforms for a state to business dialogue. It is an excellent moment to exchange best practises among members of the global healthcare sector. It is important to share and to monitor, evaluate and potentially implement locally advanced practices such as, for example, online prescriptions and drug cost reimbursement which are currently practiced in China.
Adam Smith Conferences: The situation with the new coronavirus threatens the standard business models of organisations around the world. Are there any opportunities for growth and development in the current crisis for the pharmaceutical industry?
Katerina Pogodina: As I have already said, the pandemic has rapidly changed the established communication processes. Remote work, online meetings, large-scale online events – all of this has been previously almost impossible for the rather conservative pharmaceutical industry. Now 90% of staff work remotely and navigate the digital realm perfectly well. Still, while we understand that “the new normal” won’t last forever, we are preparing for a way of working that will never be the same.
We are studying the possibilities of using this unique experience in the future post-COVID-19 world, and hope that the flexibility that has defined the period of working in the socially distanced reality will stay with us.
Adam Smith Conferences: How will the COVID- 19 pandemic affect the global and Russian pharmaceutical market in the long run?
Katerina Pogodina: I am convinced, along with many experts, that the world after the pandemic will never be the same. The “black swan” has landed, and all our usual ways and models will be re-evaluated. At the very least, the “pandemic clause” is likely to appear on all agreements.
I suppose that antiviral therapy research and development will grow. Such projects, and the study of viruses in general, will be studied more thoroughly, monitored more closely, and possibly will be better financed. The pandemic test has exposed problem areas in healthcare systems, and so corrective measures are to be expected. Also, international cooperation is likely to increase between states, businesses and organisations set up to fights such global challenges, improving cooperation in the field of healthcare.
I want to believe that, in the long-term, the pandemic can lead to the removal of contradictions in the process of improving the state healthcare system, and this in its own turn, will positively affect the pharmaceutical industry in Russia and other countries.
Adam Smith Conferences: What other questions would be relevant to discuss at the Russian Pharmaceutical Forum 2020?
Katerina Pogodina: I think it would be interesting to discuss the lessons learned from the pandemic from the perspective on arranging services for chronically ill patients.