Ljubiša Kukurić, Head of Representative Office, Sandoz Pharmaceuticals

Access To Medicines Still Slow For Serbian Citizens

Our open intent is to become a serious partner to the Health Insurance Fund and thus contribute to its competitiveness and to consequent financial savings. Of course, this scenario requires having someone to talk to in the responsible institutions, yet despite indications of more rapid and responsible operations they are not doing enough

Ljubisa Kukuric, Head of Representative Office for Serbia and Montenegro, Sandoz

Through the use of the latest technologies, Sandoz has become a world leader in the domain of pharmaceuticals, particularly in penicillin-based products.

How does one succeed in one of the most competitive areas on the global market?

– Primarily through perseverance and quality, but also through courageous decisions, and there were many such decisions made during the just over 130 years of Sandoz history. The results of this are enjoyed not only by Sandoz, but a good portion of the pharmaceutical industry. You see, the company has a rather unique heritage of successful innovative projects on the pharmaceutical scene, rightly earning it the title of a leading generic company in several therapeutic areas. It would be enough to say that the first oral penicillin was synthesized in our laboratories as early as 1951, and that Sandoz is still the only fully integrated manufacturer of penicillin in Europe with over 70% share of the dominant generic antibiotics market. A no less important achievement in the field of biotechnology from the nineteen-eighties is the manufacture of the first interferon alpha – another proof that Sandoz has moved far beyond widespread stereotypes that present the generic industry as replicators of existing products. Furthermore, the launch of the first biosimilar medicine in Europe, the growth hormone in 2006, further confirmed the visionary approach of Sandoz to understanding therapeutic trends and paved the way for what may be the most important segment of contemporary pharmacotherapy.

You have noted that your product range adds value to the healthcare system through various support services and added-value medicines. What would you highlight as the most innovative element?

– There are many ways that we are building our reputation as a company that takes care of its business environment and endeavours to comply with its main role in a truly socially beneficial way.

This primarily involves educational activities that are gaining more and more followers each day. Well-chosen topics that are the focus of both the medical and the pharmaceutical branches, and the opportunity for exchanging experience between seminar participants and renowned lecturers from nearly all areas have been proven to attract the undivided attention of audiences, thus proving that professionals frequently have no one to talk to regarding the numerous issues they face, but also that the health of their patients is still the ultimate raison d’être of their professional existence. We believe that these well-received professional events organised by Sandoz represent the best proof that the frequent rumours about compromised professionals simply are not true, or at least are not true for those pharmacists and doctors our company is in contact with.

With the by now customary participation of Sandoz as a socially responsible company in numerous activities contributing to the improvement of the health of Serbian citizens and its enviable range of products whose quality and tradition best contribute to the reputation of the company, I still believe that the described “innovative way” in which we are building relationships with our partners needs to be emphasized as a special characteristic we are proud of and will not give up easily.

Although our market share in Serbia is increasing, it is still lagging behind European countries, just as the development level of the Serbian market is lagging behind European trends in many aspects

Approximately 520 million patients used your products worldwide in 2015. What is the percentage of your presence in the Serbian market and is the latest generation of your medicines available to our people?

– Our company is a leading global generic company, and this sizable patient population reached by Sandoz products is the best indicator of both the trust people have in the products we are distributing worldwide and the reputation of the company built on efforts to make helping others the primary motive for our social engagement.

The goals of Sandoz in Serbia are no different from our global ones, and our open intent is to become a serious partner to the Health Insurance Fund, thus contributing to the competitiveness and consequent financial savings that rightly place the generic industry among the largest generators of speed and scope of introducing innovative therapies to all markets, including ours. On the other hand, to close this highly efficient circle in the best possible way, every expiry of a patent for an innovative medicine should be readily met with existing generic parallels that make any further use of expensive innovative products obsolete.

Of course, this scenario would require having someone to talk to in the competent institutions. However, despite indications towards more rapid and responsible business operations visible lately, these institutions are still failing, in the majority of issues, to contribute to the creation of a better business environment and to the improvement of the public health of citizens of Serbia. If national regulatory standards remain unharmonised with European ones, and if the Medicines and Medical Devices Agency fails to comply with the legal deadlines for adopting those decisions for which it is responsible, if the state continues with the practice of establishing the price of medicines three times, if medicines make their way onto the Refunds List of the National Health Insurance Fund slowly and with difficulties, or if you are still terrified of exchange rates that could overturn your business results overnight, it is no surprise that the lack of continuous supply on the market and slower access to new medicines are among the main factors contributing adversely to the health of the nation and reflected in a significantly higher mortality rate and significantly shorter life expectancy for citizens of Serbia in comparison with European Union countries.

Slower access to new medicines is among the main factors adversely affecting the health of the nation and having a significant impact on the mortality rate and a shorter life expectancy for citizens of Serbia compared to European Union countries

Although our market share in Serbia is increasing, it is still behind the company’s market share in most European countries, just as the development level of the Serbian market is lagging behind European trends in many respects. The well-known phrase that what you do speaks far louder than what you say should be the credo of both the pharmaceutical industry and the ministry, so that their joint efforts can achieve more for the benefit of those who need this help the most. However, I am certain that the truly unique positioning and certainly selfless readines of Sandoz to contribute to more efficient and accessible treatments, along with the expected optimisation of the activities of state institutions, represent a sufficient pledge for a better and more certain future that the citizens of Serbia have been deserving for a long time.