Interview with Artur Valiyev, Country Head, Russia, Sun Pharma
Published on 25 May 2020 by Anna Andriyanova
Adam Smith Conferences: How has the coronavirus pandemic affected the Russian pharmaceutical market?
Artur Valiyev: The pandemic has created a growing demand for a particular group of drugs and medical goods. Naturally, the demand grew for fever-reducing drugs, antibiotics, some drugs included in the experimental treatment plans (as there currently isn’t a specific therapy for the virus), preventive medications for viral respiratory infections and the flu, antivirals, complementary medications and of course, personal protective equipment – masks, gloves, antiseptics.
The lockdown caused changes to drug ordering patterns. Increasingly, orders are placed remotely, online. Besides, the retail sector is expecting the final decision on the online sale of pharmaceutical products to be passed.
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?
Artur Valiyev: Firstly, because of the situation with the virus, we have revised our business processes, distributor and consumer engagement practices. The format of field staff’s work has changed considerably. The usual meetings with pharmacists and medics have now become impossible, due to the strict quarantine measures, as well as the reported increase in workload of the pharmacy and hospital staff. The main channel of communication is, of course, moving to internet platforms.
Secondly, in the coming months the main problem may become the Vital and Essential Drugs group. The rising dollar exchange rate has inevitably caused a rise in the price of active pharmaceutical ingredients, which pushes the pre-registered price for this drug group out of the profit zone. As a solution to this problem, we are suggesting using a declarative pricing registration model and are closely collaborating with regulators on this issue.
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?
Artur Valiyev: Sun Pharma, represented on the Russian market with both distribution and production divisions, hasn’t stopped its operations. At the manufacturing plant in Penza, the work at our company Biosintez is undertaken in accordance with safety guidelines for all staff.
Moreover, the endeavours of Sun Pharma on the global scale are worth noting. Production volumes have been increased to maximum capacity in order to supply doctors and patients with medications. We have quickly launched the production of hydroxychloroquine in two formulations at our facilities in India and the USA to meet the growing demand.
In addition, Sun Pharma has already committed to donate hydroxychloroquine and other medications to a total value of $4 million at no cost to India, the USA, Myanmar, Morocco and Romania. That includes a donation by Biosintez of medication to the value of around 2 million roubles to the regional infectious disease hospital in Penza.
Adam Smith Conferences: What kind of state support and what strategic decisions do companies operating in Russia need to respond to the current circumstances?
Artur Valiyev: As mentioned previously, as a priority we need a prompt response by the regulators to the changing dollar rate, aimed at adjusting prices of the Vital and Essential Drug group. Only in such
circumstances would we be able to maintain stable production of antibacterial, antipyretic and analgesic drugs and many other drug groups essential in hospital care today.
Also, the implementation of mandatory labelling is another critical issue. Due to restrictions on the movement of experts, both setting up and making improvements have been virtually impossible. We support the deferral of the deadline for implementing the project.
Adam Smith Conferences: How will the COVID-19 pandemic affect the global and Russian pharmaceutical market in the long run?
Artur Valiyev: We will all make conclusions about our ability to overcome similar situations in the future. I think that on the state level, we need to consider the formation of a strategic reserve of pharmaceutical drugs, medical devices and protective and preventive equipment.
Most likely, all standard medical qualification programmes will now include modules on infectious diseases and working during an epidemic or pandemic. The world hasn’t faced such significant problems for a long time. It seemed that we could live peacefully, as we have long conquered terrible diseases of the past such as smallpox, typhus, cholera. But now the world has faced a new challenge. Pharmaceutical companies will strengthen their portfolios with antiviral drugs.
Adam Smith Conferences: What other questions would be relevant to discuss at the Russian Pharmaceutical Forum 2020?
Artur Valiyev: There is a need for closer international cooperation between Russia and the producers of active pharmaceutical substances in India and China, in order to avoid delivery disturbances in an emergency.
The regulators in Russia should review such policies as:
- pricing regulations for Vital and Essential Drugs for the lower price segment (under 100 roubles)
- accelerating the harmonisation of national legislation with the drug circulation policies in the Eurasian Economic Union, especially in the area of therapeutic substitution
- avoidance of other measures obstructing the introduction of generic drugs to the market, such as the patent register for generic drug approval for registration in Russia.
Furthermore, a discussion is needed regarding the expansion of online retail to a limited category of prescription drugs.