News Column

'Transfer of expertise to local market is Pfizer's main objective'

June 18, 2014

By Khalil Hanware, Arab News, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

June 18--JEDDAH -- World pharmaceutical companies have been working in cooperation with the Ministry of Health (MoH) looking for more opportunities for collaboration across Saudi Arabia. One such pharmaceutical giant is Pfizer.

"We value our continued partnership with the MOH, institutions and the private sector, and look forward to having more opportunities for learning and collaboration, thereby working together for a healthier world," says Ron Philip, president and general manager, Africa Middle East region for Pfizer's Global Innovative Pharmaceuticals business unit.

Pfizer is very active and has undertaken a number of corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives across Saudi Arabia, Philip told Arab News in an exclusive interview.

Following is the text of the interview:

What initiatives Pfizer has been undertaking in Saudi Arabia to help materialize its motto -- working together for a healthier world?

We have been heavily involved in many high value initiatives aiming at promoting people's health and well-being in Saudi Arabia together with serving the Kingdom's medical community. Such Initiatives include: Partnered with the MOH to launch the first science-based Saudi Neuropathic Pain Guidelines; partnered with the tobacco control program (TCP) of the MOH in establishing a unique and innovative mobile clinic that goes to smokers where they are to help them quit; established the first ever specialized back pain clinic in Makkah in collaboration with the MOH to help address unmet prevailing medical need.

Also, launched 'The hidden faces of diabetes' being a major awareness campaign of serious complications of diabetes in collaboration with Shifaa medical NGO society. The campaign intends to provide blood screening for more than 10,000 people to check their blood sugar and dyslipidemia and provide them with medical counseling. The results will be marked as a surveillance study to help better understand prevalence of diabetes and its complications, including neuropathic pain and heart disease.

As well launched the Saudi National Registry for psoriasis in collaboration with the Saudi Society of Dermatology and Dermatologic Surgery (SSDDS); supported the Saudi Hypertension Management Society (SHMS) for a period of five years continuously and helped bring it from just an idea to reality; significantly engaged in supporting major scientific conferences and meetings taking place in the Kingdom throughout the year.

What's more, we regularly provide quality summer professional training programs to local pharmaceutical science students to help leverage their professional skills and knowledge of the industry for the benefit of the health care industry in the Kingdom; and provide educational grants to government and institutional health care organizations.

Pfizer has been an active member in the pharmaceutical committee led by the Saudi Chambers of Commerce (CSC) raising recommendations to help leverage professional practices.

Could you give us an idea about your KAEC project?

The new Pfizer manufacturing plant at King Abdullah Economic City (KAEC) will be operational in 2015. It will incorporate medicine manufacturing, especially solid dose, as well as packaging and warehousing facilities. At the total production capacity of 18 million packs per year, the facility -- with a total land area of 32,234 m2 -- will produce a broad range of Pfizer's medicines currently supplied through importation to Saudi Arabia.

What are your plans for facilitating the transfer of technology and creating jobs for Saudis?

The KAEC plant will facilitate the transfer of Pfizer's expertise to the local market in the Kingdom, ensuring that production meets Pfizer's rigorous and globally recognized quality standards. It will also create quality employment opportunities for skilled local manpower and will be instrumental in supplying Pfizer's well established quality pharmaceutical products and making them available for the private, government and health care insurance sectors in the Kingdom and will help accelerate availability of new medications faster than ever.

How do you think your R&D will benefit the local community?

With a growing population and high prevalence of endemic diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular problems, inflammation and pain, Saudi health care needs are on the rise. Reflecting its commitment to research and development (R&D), Pfizer is working hard to address important unmet needs in the treatment of many prevailing disease areas, including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, pain, oncology, infective disease and rare diseases. Being the head of Pfizer Innovative Pharma (GIP) in AfME, I can certainly elaborate on Pfizer R&D programs in certain therapeutic areas and I will take rheumatoid arthritis (RA) as an example. Pfizer does invest heavily in developing innovative and effective breakthrough medicines that will potentially change the way RA is treated. RA is a serious and disabling disease that affects people in their everyday lives. Unfortunately, many patients worldwide and in our region do not adequately respond or are intolerant to currently available therapies. Again, generally speaking, we are prioritizing our R&D efforts in areas with the greatest scientific and impact promise, including inflammation. Pfizer currently has 20 R&D programs under phase 3 development, and its current pipeline has a total of 84 programs, including new molecular entities (NMEs), additional indications and biosimilars.

What are Pfizer's latest medical solutions?

We have a strong portfolio of new products, market-leading brands and pipeline assets. We are closely working with the MOH, institutions and the private sector, being our strategic partners in Saudi Arabia, to improve outcomes in many therapeutic areas including developing and introducing innovative medicines for rheumatoid arthritis, cardiovascular disease, rare diseases like hemophilia, neuroscience and pain, women's and men's health, oncology, vaccines, anti-infectives, anti-inflammatory and many more. We also work very hard to develop new indications for our inline medicines to help address unmet health care needs in local markets. In fact, our business is dedicated to novel and value creating medicines with the potential to significantly improve patient's lives.

You lead the Global Innovative Pharma across the Middle East and Africa markets. What's your status as a biopharmaceutical player?

Pfizer has evolved itself to ensure it remains the world's premier biopharmaceutical player with an optimal structure. Pfizer's new structure is divided into major business units -- Global Innovative Pharma, Global Established Pharma, Vaccines, Oncology and Consumer. This structure will help unleash growth capabilities of each of these units and will enable us to focus on delivering maximum value to our customers.

What's Pfizer doing to tackle pain as a health issue?

As we all know, pain is among the top health issues in our region today. Pfizer is very concerned with improving the level of care of millions of people with pain in Saudi Arabia and the rest of the Middle East. Pain is the single most frequent reason for someone seeking medical help, and is thought to be under-diagnosed and under-treated. Research indicates that acute pain is the most frequent reason why patients visit an emergency department, and is also a common complaint in patients of family practice and internal medicine. According to the International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP) and the European Federation of IASP Chapters (EFIC), one in five people around the world suffer from moderate to severe chronic pain, and one in three of these people are unable or less able to maintain an independent lifestyle due to their pain. To help address this issue in Saudi Arabia, we have supported the establishment of the first Saudi neuropathic pain guidelines, set up back pain clinics and increased awareness of the various kinds of pain associated with inflammation and other certain diseases like diabetes.

What's your latest research in providing relief to pain sufferers?

Through major research efforts across multiple modalities, we are developing the medical solutions that will matter most to patients. We are prioritizing R&D efforts in areas with the greatest scientific promise, including neuroscience and pain. Whether through introducing new breakthrough medicines in areas of anti-inflammation and immunotherapy or having new indications approved for our existing market leading pain products, we are working diligently to improve the diagnosis, treatment and management of pain.

Are you collaborating with the MoH and other local agencies in this matter?

Yes, we are partnering with the MOH and other health care partners within Saudi Arabia to help diagnose, treat and manage pain effectively. The ongoing partnership of health care professionals is instrumental in allowing us to do our work, impacting patient outcomes and delivering results for the people and communities we serve. This is why we are committed to working with the MOH and the health care community in Saudi Arabia to better understand, and manage pain and depression right here, where we all live.


(c)2014 the Arab News (Jeddah, Saudi Arabia)

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Source: Arab News (Saudi Arabia)

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