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Providing for Emerging Markets: A Chat with Raman Singh from Mundipharma
Jean-Simon Diallo
Center for Innovative Cancer Research, Ottawa Hospital Research Institute,
501 Smyth Road, 3rd floor, box 926
Ottawa, ON, Canada, K1K 4L4
Phone: 613-737-8899 x 75203
e-mail: jsdiallo@ohri.ca

Mundipharma is an integrated pharmaceutical company that not only handles research and development but also the commercialization of its products. This patient-centric company prides itself on being entrepreneurial and performance-driven.

In October of 2011, Mundipharma made a decision to use Singapore as its hub, not only for Asia but for the whole emerging world, which includes Latin America, Middle East and Africa. The expansion involved uprooting, changing their business strategy and increasing the number of people in their company, growing from a 25-employee organization to nearly 70 employees at present. They recently launched their new regional headquarters in Singapore

The pharmaceutical industry is filled with many different companies catering to many different populations of patients. Rachel Lim speaks to Mr. Raman Singh, President of Asia Pacific, Latin America, Middle East and Africa, to find out about their decision to base their Regional Headquarters here as well as what drives and differentiates them from the other companies.

APBN: What were the reasons behind the decision to locate your regional headquarters here in Singapore?

Mr. Singh: Singapore is quite strategic from a number of standpoints.

From a location standpoint, it works really well. If you look at emerging markets, which include Asia, Latin America, (and) Middle East, Asia has by far the biggest population. In terms of healthcare expansions and transformations, I think Asian economies are at the forefront of it. It was important that markets like China and India were close, and Singapore became very strategic.

The Singapore government offers various incentives, for companies like ourselves to come in, be it incentives around taxes; really helping us, not only just set up the company but also collaborating with various government institutions, to bring in new medications. If you look at the patent and trademark environment, the patent protection and trademark protection (in Singapore) is among the top five markets in the world. This encourages us and makes us very comfortable about positioning ourselves in Singapore.

Singapore is also quite well connected, I spend most of my time (at least 90%) outside of Singapore. It's very convenient and easy to travel outside of Singapore. It's very practical.

In terms of talent, I think Singapore is quite a melting pot; getting the top-notch talent that you have. It's quite easy to get people into Singapore, be it healthcare, schooling, be it security. It helps people to move into Singapore and settle down here.

APBN: Which area of pharmaceuticals does Mundipharma specialize in? Why?

Mr. Singh: There are varying areas we specialize in.

We are a leading pain management company; if you look at pain, moderate to severe and mild to moderate pain, we have a suite of medicines to cater to these varying (sorts of) pain.

The second key therapeutic area we focus on is respiratory; asthma and CNPD (Chronic Nonspecific Pulmonary Disease) medicines.

Thirdly, we look at oncology, cancer care, both oncology and oncology support care.

We have medicines in the area of rheumatology, in CNS, central nervous system.

We also have a whole other division which is consumer products, which focuses on personal care, which is quite popular in Singapore as well.

We as a company focus on innovative medications; we would want to cater to the patient population where there is an unmet medical need. If you look at the area of pain, we are among the three companies that work on pain, and among the three, we are by far the market leaders. We are the only company that continues to invest, in phase one phase two, discovering new molecules to ensuring that we step up the regiment so that we can continuously improve the quality of life for patients.

Likewise for respiratory, the field of respiratory is confined to very few players.

In oncology, we focus on rare diseases (T7 lymphoma, leukemia), where there is a patient population and there is no alternative available for this patient population.

We selected medical areas where we will actually make a difference in patients' lives.

APBN: How do you think Mundipharma differentiates itself from the many other pharmaceutical companies out there?

Mr. Singh: There are four big stakeholders that we cater to.

  1. The patient population. We believe that, the vision of our company is to ensure that every single patient that is in emerging markets should have access to our medicines. It is a broad and big statement because it really calls for geographic expansion, it calls for going broad. But at the same time if you're in a market it is absolutely essential that we go deep, be it in distribution, be it in infrastructure in terms of talking to physicians, making sure our product is understood, our price points are such that people can afford it. So it's absolutely important that we focus on our patients, who are the center of the mission and vision that this company lives by.

  2. In order to reach the patients it is extremely essential that the physicians are well-educated, because they are the ones

    who prescribe the medicines, and it is important that we as an organization go and educate the doctors about the medicines that we discover and commercialize. At the same time, let them know about the patient population where it will work, and the patient population that it is not suitable for. Every medication has a specific criteria, and we would want to make sure that we are at the forefront of educating the doctors; it is extremely important that the physicians are well informed.

  3. The third big stakeholder are regulators. Our medicines are quite regulated, it needs registration, and it needs reimbursement in some markets, like in Singapore. We are in the opiate business, which is quite regulated from the importing standpoint and needs making sure that the dissemination of medicine in the market is well-aligned and well-controlled. So it's important that we also educate the regulators and we take the responsibility to ensuring that our medications reach the right people.

  4. Finally, the employees at work within our company. We want to give them an environment that we are not only a company that they would love working for, but also helps them and their families associate themselves with this organization. The big picture, the big mission that we have in catering to patients and associating them towards it so that they can feel that they are making a difference in people's lives. What comes with it is career opportunities and a place that they can grow as an organization. Mundipharma is multi-national, we have operations in every continent around the world and we are hoping that we can provide our employees with a career path that they would feel good about.

    With these four stakeholders, we would want to position ourselves differently versus some of our other competitors.

APBN: How do you educate the regulators and physicians?

Mr. Singh: We do it through various vehicles. We have our own infrastructure; our sales force who goes and talks to the doctors, nurses and other healthcare practitioners, about Mundipharma and the company and the medicines that we sell.

We also have continuous medical education activities where we bring in top notch key opinion leaders from markets that are developed, to talk to the healthcare practitioners about the way they use our medicines in the US in Europe and where they would see the medicine being used in the emerging world.

There is a lot of interaction; we put in touch the healthcare practitioners here with the ones in the developed world.

We also do a lot of activities around bringing the doctors together and driving educational and awareness programs about the new medications we bring, and the epidemiology that exists in the market. In a lot of the emerging world, the epidemiology is different and hence it's really important for the healthcare practitioners and doctors to understand and realize what is the right use of the medicines. We actually follow different kinds of methodologies to ensuring that we drive awareness of our products. It's extremely important to us because we know the patients that would benefit and the patients that will not benefit from our medicines and I think it's our moral responsibility to ensuring that the physician community and the other healthcare practitioners are absolutely aware of the right patient population to use this product.

APBN: Can you give an example of populations of patients who can and cannot use a type of medicine?

Mr. Singh: For example, when a patient that comes in, with pain, it is important to understand what kind of pain; mild, moderate or severe. Some of our products are indicated for moderate to severe pain. For someone with mild pain, we would advise a product that is for mild to moderate pain. Then if the patient does not succeed in tolerating or managing the pain then we elevate to the next generation. It is almost like sequential therapy.

Even if you start with a specific product, we have something called a dose titration, start with 10mg and go up to 80mg; we start at 10mg to see if the pain can be managed and if it can't be managed then we titrate to the next dose, to 20mg. It is necessary that we formally educate the doctors that this is how the sequence should be given, rather than dosing them high or dosing them inappropriately.

APBN: What are some of Mundipharma's achievements you are particularly proud of?

Mr. Singh: If you just look at the access that we had in 2011 versus where we are today, I feel extremely proud that we as a company have made our medications available, not only to 6 markets in Asia but to every market in Asia today, but also Middle East, Latin America and Africa. I feel extremely proud that today at least we see the emerging world has access to our medications. Are we there as yet? Not at all, I think it's going to be a journey and we constantly need to work towards making sure that our medicines reach as many patients as possible. I think we've come a long way in terms of making sure that we establish our company in these markets, we resource these markets with an infrastructure that will help us drive awareness within the physician community. And thirdly, we have the product portfolio available that can cater to patients that exist in this marketplace

APBN: Finally, what are your future plans?

Mr. Singh: We want to build and really establish Mundipharma as a preferred employer of choice and a company most respected among the physician and healthcare community as a company that provides information accurately and that is really making a difference in the patients' lives.

About the Interviewee

Raman Singh
President – Asia Pacific, Latin America, Middle East and Africa, Mundipharma

Based in Singapore, Raman is President of Mundipharma Asia Pacific, Latin America, Middle East and Africa, overseeing all aspects of Mundipharma's network of independent associated companies within these regions. Raman was appointed to this role in November 2011. Prior to this he was Vice-President of Commercial Operations for Emerging Markets at GlaxoSmithKline in London where he oversaw all aspects of the brand's commercial operations across its emerging markets. He has also held senior positions with Abbott where he served as a Regional Director for Australia and New Zealand and General Manager for Korea. He has also held various sales, marketing and strategy positions with Bayer. Raman holds an MBA from Thunderbird, The American Graduate School of International Management.

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