Merck: Brazil brings a flip to the outcomes – however pharmaceutical needs extra

Merck: Brazil brings a flip to the outcomes – however pharmaceutical needs extra

Leader in the sale of drugs for type 2 diabetes, the German pharmaceutical company is now betting on the Brazilian market to also become leader in the sale of drugs for rare diseases; in an interview with EXAME, the president details the strategy

For more than three hundred years, the performance of the German pharmaceutical Merck It is supported by various pillars, ranging from the production of medicines for chronic and rare diseases to the development of more than 300,000 products, including raw materials and equipment used for research and development in other industries. Little known, there is also the multinational’s relationship with the electronic semiconductor segment, with the sale of liquid crystal (a substance that gives rise to the screens of electronic devices such as TVs and cell phones, for example).

In Brazil, however, the pharmaceutical company’s success is due to the area there called healthcarelinked to the production of medicines for chronic and rare diseases, such as hypertension, diabetes, multiple sclerosis and various types of cancer.

About to complete 100 years here, Merck sees today the national market as one of the most promising for the business — and responsible for concentrating a large part of the pharmaceutical company’s expectations for the future.

Why Brazil?

The relationship between the pharmaceutical company and Brazil goes back a long way. The country was the first to be chosen to host a subsidiary of the company in Latin America, 99 years ago. But maintaining positive expectations, even after so many years, does not happen by chance: in the first half of 2022, sales increased by 13% in the country compared to the same period in 2021. Brazil was responsible for almost half of the growth recorded throughout Latin America, which advanced around 16% between January and June this year.

In the last two years, also 125 million reais were invested at the Merck factory in Rio de Janeiro, a plant that works uninterruptedly almost every day of the year at a production rate close to 3 billion pills per year, destined for the local market and exports to neighboring countries.

“It makes sense for us to continue this story of growth and innovation in Brazil”, says José Arnaud Coelho, president of the company in Brazil, in an interview with EXAME. “The country concentrates many of our expectations”.

The off-the-curve results are also due to the effects of the pandemic itself. With a focus on the health area, Merck, which specializes in drugs for the treatment of heart disease and also chronic diseases such as diabetes – considered priority comorbidities in the care of covid-19 – could have some strategic advantage in the period. “It was a shift in people seeking more information and treatment, and this contributed to very positive years for us and which guide the future of Merck”, he says.

What are the company’s plans?

Over the next two years, the forecast is to add at least two new oncology products to the portfolio, including a new option for the treatment of head and neck cancer that promises to almost double the survival rate in carrier patients, and for which there are already Phase II studies in the United States and Brazil. In addition, there is also the ambition to launch a drug for multiple sclerosis, with studies currently in phase three, one of the most advanced in scientific development.

In addition, the company is currently planning the participation of more than 10 research centers for the treatment of systemic lupus erythematosus, a pathology that mobilizes studies with new molecules seen as a new therapeutic opportunity for patients with the disease.

Merck’s ambition to focus on niches and rarities is also justified by the numbers. Of all the company’s areas, the one that stood out for the highest growth in recent months was precisely multiple sclerosis, with an expansion of 32%. For comparison purposes, the production of medicines for diabetes grew 17%, and cardiology products, 12%.

The path there, however, poses challenges for Merck. The development of drugs involving potential molecules for rare diseases requires time and investment. But, according to Coelho, this is already an irrefutable destination for the company in Brazil — a country with already pulverized production of medicines for chronic diseases and already common to the population. Even so, today Merck is the market leader in prescribing and selling medication for type 2 diabetes — 98% of metformin sold in the country is produced at Merck’s factory in Rio de Janeiro, according to the company.

Brazil currently has around 40,000 people with multiple sclerosis in Brazil, while there are 16.8 million people with diabetes, responsible for selling around 84 million boxes of medicine for the disease per year, just at Merck.

But the account closes, says Coelho. He explains that this is due to the fact that the company started to serve better, and not in greater quantity. “Our strategy going forward will be to become a global leader in specialties,” he says. “The focus is on racing against time for faster conclusions and for reducing complexity and increasing our production capacity in Brazil, a key market for us”, says Coelho.

The moment, by all indications, seems to be the most appropriate for Merck’s bets (including financial ones) on medical specialties. In the second quarter of this year, the German company recorded a profit of 870 million euros, an increase of 16.4% compared to the same period last year. Revenue grew by 14.3% to €5.57 billion in 2022.

Source: Exam

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