Jorge Levinson, Country Commercial Lead Pharmaceuticals, Bayer Romania, Bulgaria and Moldova, started his career in the pharmaceutical industry in 2005 in Bayer Spain. During his 16 years with the company, he has occupied various leadership positions in many countries, including Ukraine, Morocco, Iran and Germany. Jorge has a university degree in business administration and computer systems and a master’s degree in supply chain management and marketing.
What challenges has the Covid-19 pandemic brought to the company? How has the Covid-19 crisis impacted the respective demand for Bayer Bulgaria’s products? In respect of which products has demand increased, and how have you responded to that trend?
The Covid crisis has had different stages and presented challenges to everyone, in particular to the medical communities and healthcare systems. Our business by nature is closely linked to the behaviour of patients and medical institutions. Covid-19 has severely been affecting both. For us, the most difficult stage is when the hospitals are overloaded and patients have limited access to medical consultations, thereby delaying the initiation of medical treatments or stopping treatment continuation due to fear that if they return to renew prescriptions, they would be exposed to Covid.
However, we’ve seen some out-of-usual sales dynamics. At the beginning of the pandemic, we observed high demand shortly after lockdowns as patients were stocking up medicines to stay at home. Then we had periods with low movement and then again, some peaks.
What do you see as the challenges specific to Bulgaria for your company, not only in regard to the pandemic, and how are you addressing them?
As an innovative company, Bayer seeks to bring the latest innovative therapies to patients in Bulgaria as soon as these are available. But there are number of processes that need to be undertaken to do so, and these are rather lengthy and challenging. In many European countries, new treatments are accessible a few months after launch, while in Bulgaria it can take several years until the medicines get reimbursement and be accessible for patients.
An additional challenge is the complicated taxation system applicable to the pharmaceutical industry. This mechanism has been engineered to pay back to the government part of the product that has been consumed. The complex formulae of this mechanism and unpredictability outcome, reduce the attractiveness to bring new medicines. To sum up, our biggest challenge remains, to bring our latest innovations faster to the country and to the patients.
However, we work closely with the industry association and the authorities to continuously introduce efficiencies that can bring the Bulgarian healthcare system closer to the average European level. We are positive that together the medical community and our high-quality products can help more patients to have a better quality of life.
In the treatment of which diseases in Bulgaria does Bayer have the competitive edge, and why?
In the 120 years since Bayer invented Aspirin, the company has been growing and developing therapies in cardiology. Today this legacy brings us to have a solid place in this therapeutic area, specifically in prevention of stroke, atrial fibrillation and other cardiovascular diseases. Another area where we are strengthening our position is in ophthalmology, where our treatment for macular diseases, that has become a standard of care in Europe, is finally accessible to Bulgarian patients.
What innovations is Bayer implementing and how soon will they be on the Bulgarian market?
Bayer has been providing innovative therapeutic solutions that help improve lives for over 150 years. Our scientists are working in pursuit of new therapies, especially in areas where there is high unmet medical need and in accordance to our purpose “Science for a better life”. These include our late-stage pipeline in cardiovascular diseases, namely a symptomatic chronic heart failure treatment and medicine for the treatment of patients with chronic kidney disease associated with type 2 diabetes for which we hope to be available for the Bulgarian patients within the next couple of years so that they can be treated more effectively in future.
We are proud of the current speed of the company investing in developing new therapies to provide patients with better alternatives. Bayer has invested in companies like Ask Bio and BlueRock, seeking ways to develop new products through new technology for areas with high unmet medical need like Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. In this regard, Bayer has created cell and gene therapy platform and we expect that in the next 10 years we will be able to launch many new products.
In respect of medications, how price-sensitive is the Bulgarian market, compared with other markets of which you have experience?
Health is very important for the Bulgarians and taking care for their families’ and loved ones’ wellbeing is a priority. This spirit of family integration and care increases the willingness of the Bulgarian patients to treat themselves with latest therapies available and as they understand that quality is important, the best care should not be compromised. Here in comparison with other markets, people see the value of giving the best to their loved ones in regard to healthcare.
Is Bulgaria a good environment for a pharmaceutical company to invest and expand its investment? Is there a trend of expansion within this market, in research, production and commercially?
In Bulgaria we can find qualified professionals that can support us with extending our presence. An example is our recent establishment of a larger team of clinical operations supporting company’s operations at global level. Clinical trials are an essential tool for determining the efficacy and safety of new drugs before they can be used to diagnose or treat diseases and we are happy to be able to enlarge our presence on the Bulgarian market in this area.
In Bulgaria there is attractive potential for introducing innovative products that are already available in other countries.
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