Commercializing Complex Medicines in Europe: David Johnson, ADVANZ PHARMA

David Johnson joined ADVANZ PHARMA, a specialty pharma focused on commercializing complex medicines in European hospitals, as Head of International Marketing. Now Global Director of Commercial Excellence, he supports the growth of a new strategic business unit, with an ambitious goal to become Europe’s go-to partner for commercializing complex medicines.

Speaking to Pharm Exec, Johnson provides an overview of the new strategic business unit and the work at ADVANZ that aims to provide greater choice and access for patients and healthcare providers in Europe.

Pharm Exec: Can you tell us about your role at ADVANZ PHARMA and why it is important?

David Johnson: In February 2019, I became the Global Director of Commercial Excellence and have over 25 years of experience in the pharmaceutical industry. I am responsible for developing commercial plans to expand all areas of the business, with a key focus on uniting the three key elements for commercialization: market access, marketing, and commercial excellence.

As ADVANZ PHARMA continues to expand into the complex and value-added medicines space, my role has become particularly important as we need to instill the value of a product for payors and healthcare systems alike. This requires us to adopt a different skillset to what we needed before – this includes; supporting and preparing our salespeople in the field, providing opportunities for them to sell our products where there is most need and, ultimately, for patients to have access to these products.

How has your extensive experience in marketing helped with your role as Global Director of Commercial Excellence?

The strategic planning element that I’ve learnt as a marketeer, which involves a high level of planning rigor, has played a key role in driving commercial planning and product launches. My experience in marketing has helped me to understand that this is a cross-functional role, affecting every element of the organization, all of which has to be captured in the commercial strategy.

Most importantly, it’s the people I’ve worked with on the way who have taught me a great deal about how to manage this process. I like to create an inclusive atmosphere where each employee knows their role and how the overarching plan comes together. In my experience, it’s vital to involve and incorporate everyone in an ‘all in this together’ atmosphere, which makes the job more enjoyable, but also helps to yield better results as a company.

What excites and challenges you in your day-to-day role?

Our industry is very fast paced. Working to tight time constraints is often challenging, especially when presented with a huge range of opportunities for commercialization. The Global Commercial Excellence function is still relatively new here, and as a team we have had to work together quite quickly to understand how best to thoroughly evaluate these opportunities, as well as how to commercialize them.

This is made easier by the fact we have a great team. We work together as a small, close-knit unit who are driven towards one key goal: to ensure the sustained access of complex and established medicines to patients who need them. This is always at the forefront when deciphering our commercialization strategies and requirements for each product.

What have been your key priorities and achievements since taking on your role?

My key priority has been establishing and growing the Global Commercial Excellence function. I have thoroughly enjoyed building it, both in terms of finding the right roles for the right people, but also in establishing the role of the function within the organization, and what it means for other areas of the business.

One of my main responsibilities is supporting the sales team effectively, which has been more important than ever over the past year or so, where we have had to completely adapt our ways of working. I’m extremely proud of what we have achieved together to-date and am excited to see our hard work come to fruition as we establish ourselves more firmly in the complex medicines space.

What is the significance of the shift in strategy to focus on commercializing complex medicines for European Hospitals?

Previously, our focus was on commercializing existing, established molecules, and so moving into the complex medicine space has provided opportunity for us to grow. This means patients are at the heart of our business model as we work to make improvements for patients and healthcare professionals while providing essential cost-savings for healthcare systems. We are still very much committed to expanding and maintaining supply of our established medicine portfolios too, as without our investment they would not be available to those that rely on them.

How do off-patent and complex medicines ensure improved choice for healthcare providers across Europe?

By innovating established medicines, we build enhanced access, choice, and affordability into the healthcare system by adding value. Value, here is defined by many features, such as the opportunity to produce similar medicines at a lower price, or improvements to the way they are administered. This can mean we contribute to the overall healthcare system, helping to free up hospital resources so that they can be distributed elsewhere, meaning overall care for patients is improved.

In this industry, I believe that it is not always about “the next best thing”, it’s important to also evaluate what we currently have available to make it better and more affordable. This is particularly important in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, not only where hospital resources are already strained and in need of affordable solutions, but also in how established generic medicines have been repurposed as treatments in the fight against COVID.

What are your goals for 2021 and beyond?

I hope to continue on our current trajectory and see expansion of our Strategic Growth business unit, which will act as a stepping-stone for the future of the business. From a corporate perspective, our goal is to build on our collaborative industry network to become the go-to partner for commercializing complex medicines in the European hospitals market.

But our most important priority is our ongoing commitment to patients, so that we can continue to supply essential medicines, whether that’s for specialized or much wider patient populations. By revitalizing and investing in these medicines, we are committed to improving access and choice based on patient need, not patient numbers, and I look forward to seeing the benefits in the months and years to come.