Innovation is the cornerstone of Roche’s century-long success | So Good News
Swiss multinational Roche Pharma, one of the world’s largest biotechnology companies and a global provider of transformative innovative solutions in key disease areas, recently completed its 125-year journey. On this occasion, Adriano Antonio Treve, Regional Head of Roche Subcontinent for Central Eastern Europe, Turkey, Russia and India, who is currently visiting Bangladesh, shared with Dhaka Tribune reporter Syed Samiul Basher Anik how the company can contribute. Development of Bangladesh and its challenges and prospects in health care, especially cancer treatment.
DT: Roche recently celebrated its 125th anniversary. Tell us about this incredible journey and your plans for the next decade.
I am proud to work for a company that can celebrate 125 years and that is mainly because Roche is a company based on innovation. We have great products in disease areas that make a big difference to doctors helping patients. Looking back, we were a world leader in oncology, and now we’re expanding the broad base we have. During these 125 years, we have been able to introduce all the innovations on a sustainable basis and it has been by investing heavily in research and development. Last year, we spent $13 billion on research and development alone. If you break that down, that’s about $35 million a day that we invest in research and development.
I think it’s a very successful event that will continue in the years to come. We are on track and very positive to explore more therapeutic products in the coming days.
DT: How is Roche working to improve access to medicine in low- and middle-income countries?
First, we can’t do it alone. We must work together with patients and governments to find solutions. We bring exceptional products to patients, but that’s not all. For low- and middle-income countries, we are particularly looking at how we can make these products more accessible to patients in these countries.
This means bringing products to market at a different price point so that low- and middle-income countries can afford our medicines. We work with traditional and non-traditional partners in developing countries to identify and address gaps in care. We are committed to working with the government to help reduce the burden of cancer through various initiatives.
DT: You are one of the key people involved in Roche’s journey to Bangladesh, which began more than 30 years ago. In your experience, what needs to happen to implement personalized and patient-centered healthcare in Bangladesh?
Today in Bangladesh we mostly have 95%-98% generic drugs, but the problem is that generic drugs can only survive if there is an innovation that can be copied when the patent goes away. It is important not to close the door to new innovative compounds and also to ensure that there is a law or regulation to manage patent protection as this is very important for a market like Bangladesh.
DT: During your three-decade journey, what collaborations have you had with the Bangladeshi government to improve access to Roche’s medicine?
We are discussing with the government the reimbursement of new innovative products for various industries. We do and want to continue to do so. We rely on the cooperation of the government to bring together doctors and patients to give patients access to products. We are also committed to supporting the government to develop the ecosystem, diagnostic infrastructure and specific prevention and screening strategies.
In Bangladesh, doctors and government stakeholders follow what is happening in the world in terms of regulation and new innovations. I think people, governments and stakeholders know a lot more now than ever before. I think this collaboration is very important and helps to treat patients as well as get better treatment and that’s what we want to achieve.
DT: According to the World Health Organization, there are 1.5 million cancer cases in Bangladesh, of which 10 percent die every year. Availability and accessibility of health care remains a major challenge for cancer care planning in Bangladesh. Is there anything your company can offer to combat these challenges?
I think the most important thing about cancer is that if you start early enough to take preventative measures and be aware, you can reduce your risks. The key to fighting cancer is actually prevention, and that means getting patients to the point where they no longer need products to survive. That’s why awareness campaigns are important and that’s what we do.
Also, patients should perform certain exercises to prevent the disease. It can be prevented if you go to the doctors early, listen to your body and not be reactive, but only check the health aspects. If you can ensure early detection, you can live many years without having to do anything.
Patients should visit doctors early and undergo examination. That’s one of the things we’re trying to help governments do, but it also has to come from patients to show transparency.
Cancer is not something people want to talk about, they think it’s taboo. We have to be open to it and do some tests to extend your life.
DT: What is Roche doing to innovate in pricing and its business model?
We have established international differential pricing that provides a basis for aligning prices to a country’s GDP. This was an effective solution to address country-specific availability restrictions.
DT: There have been significant advances in cancer treatment in Bangladesh in recent decades. The government has initiated the creation of specialized cancer hospitals in all eight districts of the country. What other initiatives can the government take and is there anything you can collaborate on?
Firstly, I welcome the government’s decision to build new cancer treatment centers. This is a big government thing. Now the state should prepare a fund for oncology, so that everyone can really have access to treatment. We are committed to working with the government to help the project succeed and support their efforts.