PharmTech: It has been noted that Brazil's northern region is growing at the same pace as most of China and that Brazil expects to continue to grow its economy. Are there key goals for the bio/pharmaceutical sector in particular?
Palmeria: Brazil should continue growing at a rate of 5% per year in the next few years, largely driven by its internal market. In the case of the pharmaceutical market, the past few years have been prosperous, due to the increased income in the lowest levels of the population that began to acquire more health products, and to the increased public spending to attend the new public health needs of the population.
This positive environment of the past 10 years has allowed for the modernization of the Brazilian pharmaceutical industry and its increased production capacity. The main challenge in the next few years will be to uphold the supply of health products for the increasing demand, while at the same time consolidating research, development, and innovation efforts within the country, especially in the area of biotechnology products.PharmTech: The Brazilian government plans to move 16 million people out of poverty and into the healthcare system during the next 10 years. Is this part of a larger government initiative? What progress been made to date?
Palmeria: The recent economic boom in Brazil..., together with the government policies for income transfer, have taken more than 36 million Brazilians out of poverty, which increased the middle class by more than 50% of population. This result is extremely relevant for a country that still has a very high rate of income inequality. Even so, it is estimated that there are around 16 million Brazilians with a family income of less than US$45 per month, which are families that are difficult to reach by the traditional measures of the state.
It was for these reasons that the Brazilian government created the Programa Brasil Sem Miséria (Brazil without Poverty) in 2011 to take this underprivileged group of Brazilians out of poverty and give them access to the country's main social services. Within the scope of the program, healthcare is included as a fundamental right and an important pillar in the public policy to include this part of the population.
PharmTech: Moving so many people into the healthcare system will provide great business opportunity—as well as challenges—for the healthcare and drug sectors. What steps is the government taking to address these? What advantages may exist for bio/pharmaceutical companies outside of Brazil?
Palmeria: The key word to healthcare in Brazil is access. The government has been working hard to increase the supply of medicines to the populace. On the side of development and production in the country, this effort involves several fronts: technology transfer agreements via public-private partnerships; finance for the development and production of strategic products for the Brazilian health system; continued improvement of the regulatory regime; and centralized purveying and negotiating directly with producers.
The opportunities for companies arise inasmuch as the government is able to acquire more products and sustain the adoption of new protocols in the Brazilian Universal Health System.
PharmTech: What is your country's short- and long-term perspective on the manufacture of biopharmaceuticals, including biosimilars?
Palmeria: The Brazilian government is working to construct an industrial platform for biotechnology within the country that, in the short-term, produces biological products that are not new (biosimilars). This industrial structure should, however, include the possibility to innovate and develop new biotechnolgy products in the longterm.
PharmTech: GE Healthcare and Amgen have recently made bold moves to acquire facilities and companies in São Paulo. Have you seen increased action along these lines from multinational bio/pharmaceutical firms? Do you expect more?