In Pakistan, quality regulations are getting stronger and stricter, resulting in better medicines. While increasing quality is a good thing for everyone, companies need to lean on more than just high-quality products to earn the trust of the consumers. As the quality gap closes, consumers, doctors and pharmacists in Pakistan will look for something more – an added value or additional service. To remain relevant, companies must continuously improve medicines and add services to meet these expectations.
We sat with Mr. Syed Anis Ahmed, General Manager of Abbott’s pharmaceutical business in Pakistan, to discuss the importance of quality and trust.
PAGE: Abbott has existed in Pakistan for 70 years; how do you think it is different from other health care located in the country?
Syed Anis Ahmed: Abbott stands for quality and trust. We have delivered high quality healthcare around the world for more than 130 years. Our business is backed by Abbott quality, ethics and compliance, a reliable supply chain and a world-class scientific culture and medical expertise.
Operating in Pakistan for 70 years, first as a private company in 1948 and later as a public limited company as of 1982, Abbott is now the second largest healthcare company in Pakistan and is the only global company whose medicine business is solely focused on emerging markets.
We keep people’s hearts healthy, nourish their bodies at every stage of life, help them feel better and bring them information, medicines and breakthroughs to better manage their health. Thanks to insight-driven innovation in every one of our businesses – nutrition, diabetes care, medicines and devices/diagnostics, we help people live the best life they can through good health and we have an unprecedented pipeline of life-changing technologies that address some of the world’s most pressing healthcare issues.
PAGE: Can you briefly mention recent successes for Abbott in Pakistan?
Syed Anis Ahmed: Abbott is the third largest pharmaceutical company in Pakistan. In 2017, Abbott acquired St. Jude Medical, a medical device company. This acquisition has strengthened Abbott’s presence in the cardiovascular field, thus making Abbott a leading healthcare device company – globally and in Pakistan.
Recently, we launched ALINITY, a next-generation family of laboratory diagnostic system, designed to simplify diagnostics and help deliver results that drive better patient outcomes. Alinity represents a breakthrough in the diagnostics industry, because it offers modular solutions that are tailored to the needs of today’s laboratories. Experts appreciate it for its space and cost efficiency, accuracy and speed.
Along with any leadership position, comes responsibility. We take this at heart and in 2018, at the International Corporate Social Responsibility Summit, Abbott in Pakistan won the Corporate Social Responsibility award for the 6th consecutive year. Abbott Laboratories Pakistan also received the “Best Fuel Efficiency Award” from Provincial Minister Mr. S. Nasir Hussain Shah in the Climate Change Adaptation Summit 2018.
PAGE: How do you ensure that Abbott’s offerings are of high quality?
Syed Anis Ahmed: If I take our pharmaceutical business as an example, we have rigorous, industry leading processes in place to ensure we deliver high quality, trusted medicines to people. We extensively monitor and test our medicines from beginning to end.
Our quality journey starts with qualifying our suppliers to ensure that the raw materials provided – such as API or excipients – are consistent with set specifications and attributes. Following this, we conduct comprehensive testing before initiating any manufacturing, and continue with ongoing testing as part of the overall manufacturing control. At the end of the manufacturing cycle, all batches are controlled before being released in the market, and we have periodic audits to control our processes.
Ultimately, when a medicine has left the production facility, Abbott continuously monitors any reported complaint to ensure that people in Pakistan continue having high quality, effective and safe products.
Our high quality standards, reliable supply chain, clinical science and innovation make us different than pure generic companies and enable us to provide reliable medicine that people can trust.
Overall, our diverse portfolio of medicines, nutrition, diabetes and diagnostic devices share a common framework of excellence in science, research, development, quality and engineering.
PAGE: You mentioned that innovation is a key aspect of Abbott’s medicine business. Can you share some examples of your approach to innovation?
Syed Anis Ahmed: In Pakistan, we have a portfolio of more than 150 products across multiple therapeutic areas, including gastroenterology, women’s and men’s health, cardio-metabolic, pain management, central nervous system, respiratory, pediatrics and hospital care. Within this offering, we have created new ways of using existing medicines, new dosage combinations, new indications, different flavors, enhanced packaging and digital solutions that improve lives of people by customizing our products to local needs and preferences.
We start by being in tune with key insights by keeping a close look at the needs of people, doctors and pharmacists. We then link these with latest technology to make medicines better. Our broad scientific expertise enables us to create new healthcare products, carry them through the critical stages of development and then deliver them to patients and healthcare providers around the world. This insight-driven approach is common in other industries, like consumer goods, but not as common in pharmaceuticals.
Innovation can also mean finding new indications. We recently did this with oral dydrogesterone, a medicine that is more than 50 years old, and used to help women manage threatened and recurrent miscarriage and menstrual disorders. According to the World Health Organization, approximately 10 percent of couples worldwide are affected by infertility at any given time. When women undergo in vitro fertilization, they take progesterone to prepare their uterus. The current standard of care is micronized vaginal progesterone, which is administered vaginally and associated with side effects that include irritation and discharge. We wanted to know if oral dydrogesterone – a simple pill – could work just as well. We conducted a clinical study which were recently published, and showcased that oral dydrogesterone could also be a treatment option for women undergoing in vitro fertilization. Following these published results, we received this additional indication approval in several countries including Pakistan, ultimately giving women in emerging markets access to a more convenient treatment option.
We have the same insight-driven innovation approach across our other Abbott businesses, such as in our nutrition business. In Pakistan, we take pride in pioneering initiatives with lasting impact on local communities. In 2018, Abbott Nutrition in Pakistan launched NutriNation 5.0. This unique and single largest nutrition platform in the country aims at raising awareness amongst healthcare professionals around the importance of nutrition in building healthy communities. This year, the event was hosted by the capital city of Islamabad, where over 300 healthcare professionals from 10 major cities came under one roof to discuss challenges, exchange ideas and agree on action plans.
PAGE: What are Abbott’s future plans?
Syed Anis Ahmed: We’re shaping Abbott for long-term growth by building significant positions in those areas where the need for new solutions is greater. Four of the world’s seven billion people live in emerging markets, which includes Pakistan, and, over the next five years, these countries are expected to nearly double their spending on medicines. The companies that will be successful are those who understand how the landscape is forming and look to the future to see how we can improve medicines and services for people.
Our medicines manufacturing center in Pakistan is now a regional hub, with exports to Afghanistan and Bangladesh, in addition to Sri Lanka, East Africa and Egypt. In the future, the site plans to export products to Africa and Asia Pacific.