One of the world’s leading pharmaceutical companies says that Colombia ‘lacks competitiveness’ in terms of approval times from regulatory bodies

Biopharmaceutical company AbbVie is one of the world’s leading companies in immunology and also one of the five largest pharmaceutical companies on the planet. The company, which works on topics such as immunology, oncology, neuroscience, visual health, chose Colombia to be the hub of the northern cluster of Latin America, which includes Colombia, Peru, Ecuador, Venezuela, Central America and the Caribbean.

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Currently, in the country, more than 1.6 million patients benefit from AbbVie therapies and around 25 clinical studies are being developed, with an annual investment that exceeds one million dollars in innovation and development alone. . In general terms, in the last three years they have invested more than 14 million dollars in research in Colombia.

Within the framework of the Health Forum and 30th Andi Pharmaceutical Forum, which takes place this week in Cartagena, EL TIEMPO spoke with the general manager of AbbVie for the northern cluster of Latin America, María Jose Sánchez, who assures that there are still opportunities for improvement in terms of regulatory approvals compared to other countries in the region, but under its concept there is a will to improve said situation.

Health Forum and 30th Andi Pharmaceutical Forum.


What is AbbVie doing in Colombia?

We participate in different therapeutic areas. In immunology that integrates rheumatology, dermatology and gastro. Also in oncology and hematology. In everything related to visual health, which is from Allergan, a company with which we have already completed our integration; and neurosciences too, everything that has to do with migraine. In these two expansions we continue developing molecules and clinical studies. Worldwide we have 90 clinical programs in all these therapeutic areas. In Colombia specifically, we have been working on average, since 2013, about five studies per year, specifically in the three areas where we have the most focus, which is neurosciences, immunology and oncology.

How do you see the sector and the industry in general? Regarding what we are talking about, it has been said here in the Health Forum and 30th Pharmaceutical Forum of the Andi…

We see that there is still opportunity to improve times and processes for the approvals of the studies and for the approvals of the clinical research molecules in which we participate. I believe that part of what we have to continue doing, as colleagues and in this forum, is to continue working on developing clinical centers because they have high quality compared to other regions. We at AbbVie have 71 research centers that are concentrated in 10 cities in Colombia and this obviously generates investment in the country, but also employment. There are more than 50 researchers in the clinical studies that we participate in and more than 250 patients who participate in clinical studies in Colombia.

On average, AbbVie, since 2013, has conducted 5 clinical studies per year in Colombia, in more than 71 centers and 10 cities.


What problems do you see that may be affecting the sector? For example in topics such as clinical trials…

I believe that we must continue establishing work tables and dialogues between public and private. There is already a work plan specifically for Invima to improve times and processes. We have seen some results in some areas, but we still continue to see opportunities for improvement, because there are the centers, there are the molecules, there is the participation, there is the knowledge. I think we need to continue working to improve times. Where we have the least competitiveness versus the rest of the region in Latin America is times.

AbbVie general manager for the northern Latin American cluster, María Jose Sánchez.


Is enough work being done to improve these problems? Regarding the crisis that the sector is currently going through…

I believe that there are many officials who, yes, are doing their homework to listen and I believe that as always happens with crises, there is more willingness than before to want to solve and there is a sense of urgency that is different from any other time. I think that makes the difference: the urgency in meeting can generate action plans more quickly than what has been worked on on previous occasions. So yes we have found willingness in some sectors and with some officials, not with others, but we have seen willingness. Also (the crisis) is making us all sit down and work for access for all patients in the country. The conditions are also being met to sit down with all the actors: with the hospitals, with the logistics operators, with the associations that represent patients, with the government and us who are part of the actors that make up the entire system.

You chose Colombia as the country to make your northern cluster in Latin America. Because?

We obviously believe in the talent of the country. Geographically there is also an important ease. We have more than 250 employees in total in the region, but Colombia represents 90% of the employees in terms of the hub.

And what are your future plans in the country?

We have recent approval from Invima for research in atopic dermatitis, ulcerative colitis, spondylitis and psoriatic arthritis. We are going to continue focusing on research and developing the control of these diseases and continue working, both in the clinical research part and in the development of disease control in the country, in the four areas where we participate. And we will continue making investments. We more or less in the country invested $14 million in the last three years and I think it is important because that obviously generates development of the country, generates employment and generates development for the control of diseases.


Environment and health journalist


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