Mexico Health Review spoke to Erik Musalem, General Manager of Gilead Sciences Mexico, on the company’s portfolio and strategies to address HIV and hepatitis.
Q: How do you expect Gilead’s Kite Pharmaceuticals acquisition, completed in 2017, to impact your operations?
A: Gilead has focused on infectious diseases, especially HIV and hepatitis B and C, for a long time and the company’s R&D is distinguished by its investment in areas with unmet medical needs. We are now looking to increase our presence in other therapeutic areas and this was the reason for purchasing Kite Pharmaceuticals. Through Kite Pharmaceuticals, we are entering oncology as the therapy we acquired involves extracting plasma from patients and developing individual treatments for them.
Q: In what way is the relationship between Gilead Sciences Mexico and the public and private sectors established?
A: We are direct providers of treatments for hepatitis. For HIV we work through Stendhal, a leader in the treatment of HIV/AIDS. More than 90 percent of sales go to the government. Gilead Mexico leads the hepatitis and HIV therapeutic areas with a 60 percent market share. We are leaders in both Mexico and the rest of the world in these segments.
Q: What processes do you implement to ensure the efficiency of your operations?
A: We opened our offices in Mexico in 2005, but in 2017 we decided to restart from scratch. We instituted a long-term investment project that includes the establishment of a more solid structure and the appointment of a new CEO. The goal is to strengthen all areas of the company with the best talent available in the market. This is a five-year plan and so far we have achieved good results in the hepatitis segment.
Q: How does Mexico contribute to Gilead Sciences’ global revenues?
A: We have access operations in Central America and in the Southern Cone, while in emerging markets we apply a business model that adapts to the needs of each country. This is the case of Mexico and Brazil, two of the world’s Top 15 markets. Brazil is above Mexico, but Mexico is more stable because of patent protection laws and its demographics. It is also a market with many potential patients, since 1.4 percent of the Mexican population has hepatitis, but only 3,000 patients are receiving treatment.
Q: Why does Mexico have such a high prevalence of hepatitis? How do you reach out to patients?
A: Many cases are due to blood transfusions performed years ago under inefficient quality controls, but there are also patients who became infected through the use of intravenous drugs or through sexual transmission. The largest population with hepatitis is over 40 years old and many do not know they have it until they develop cirrhosis. We are working together with the government to raise awareness and promote early diagnosis.
Q: To what extent have you been affected by expiring patents and what drugs are being created to counteract this?
A: Our hepatitis products are very new so we are not dealing with this situation. With HIV, we have been leaders for a while but some of our patents will soon expire. The best way to deal with patents lost is to continue to innovate and develop therapies that allow people to benefit from generics in a legal way. Between now and 2020, we will launch three products targeting hepatitis and four for HIV. We have a strong pipeline for fatty liver and before 2020 we will have new products in this area.