Portugal: Riding the Wave of Economic Reform - Pharmaceutical Executive


Portugal: Riding the Wave of Economic Reform

Pharmaceutical Executive

Gearing Up for the Fight

For every action there is a reaction. Instability, according to Gomes Esteves, is the fundamental reason behind the lack of foreign direct investment in the pharmaceutical industry in Portugal, a country where 95% of pharmaceutical activities are commercial. Esteves, who has been the man behind the Portuguese Pharmaceutical Association for almost 15 years, has the tough challenge of representing all classes of companies - from manufacturers to distributors, generics to innovators. "A country that changes the rules every day can forget about FDI," he says. Indeed, the lack of competitiveness often haunts the Portuguese pharmaceutical industry. "The Portuguese pharmaceutical market is a small market which represents around 4 billion (US$5.3 billion), including hospitals," he continues. "It is clear that in the future, all the European Union member States will try to squeeze the pharmaceutical industry more and more. The country needs to understand that it is losing competitiveness; some centers of excellence are moving to the United States or even India."

The performance of the companies operating in the Portuguese pharmaceutical market is a true reflection of the current governmental policies. "The two consecutive 6% price cuts in less than 18 months are a serious threat to any serious corporate planning and profitability levels. For the second year in a row, due to the restructuring of the Portuguese health system, we will be offering all the extra profits generated by our growth rates to the government," says J. Miguel Noriega. In spite of that, his company, Organon Portuguesa, is seeking to further develop its position in the areas of neuroscience and anesthesia and consolidate the strong image it has achieved in Portugal in the areas of gynecology, contraceptives and fertility.

For companies that aren't selling generics or OTC medicines, bringing new products to the market has been the only way to increase sales in such an unwelcoming environment. There is no one better than the market leader to illustrate such a trend. In 2006, MSD Portugal boasted a 4.5% sales increase compared with 2005. "The current growth is based on the positive performance of the company's new products launched over the last two years, particularly in the Inegy franchise and also in the osteoporosis franchise. Nevertheless, the last years suffered a major impact from patent expirations; the company lost the exclusivity of important products such as Zocor and Proscar to generic producers. The year of 2006 was a time of recovery that allowed MSD Portugal to consolidate its number-one position in the market," says Jose Almeida Bastos, who is about to complete his 10th anniversary as general manager of MSD Portugal. For 2007, he places his bets on the areas of diabetes, cardiovascular, oncology and CNS therapies (the latter more in the medium term), but he isn't leaving out "pain, respiratory, rheumatology, HIV and hospital products, segments in which MSD is already very strong in Portugal," he concludes.

Antonio Araujo
As general director of Novo Nordisk Portugal, Antonio Araujo works for an important player in the fight against diabetes in the country. He finds it very difficult to explain the Portuguese government's numerous policy changes to his company's Danish headquarters. But despite all the setbacks and "a portfolio which still does not contain all of the company's most modern insulin," notes Araujo, "Novo Nordisk has managed to remain a market leader in Portugal."

As he expects to introduce the company's leading European growth drivers, the products Levemir and NovoMix, to Portugal in 2007, his company has a good outlook for the next year. "We all know that the prevalence of diabetes is increasing dramatically - in Portugal as in other parts of the world," he says. "Novo Nordisk is committed to changing diabetes. We have the broadest portfolio of modern insulin, and our objective for 2007 is to make these products available in Portugal in order to offer people with diabetes the best treatment options."


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