The Swiss Multi National Pharma Company Roche, which is the world's largest biotech company, has expressed its eagerness to serve more cancer and rare disease patients in Bangladesh. Having been in the country for more than three decades , the firm sees more prospects for the country's development of and commitment to non-communicable disease care.
Adriano Antonio Treve, Area Head, Roche Central Eastern Europe, Turkey, Russia and Indian Subcontinent (CEETRIS), recently visited Bangladesh. Speaking to The Business Standard, he was optimistic about the government's positive intervention in the area.
The text of the interview follows:
TBS: Please tell us about your journey with Roche and the excitement of being a part of this organization.
Adriano Antonio Treve: Roche is truly an innovation driven company and delivering unmet needs to patients across the world. A journey with Roche is fascinating and exciting. We are currently focused on oncology and serving cancer patients. We aim to deliver more care to more patients faster. Our personalized healthcare strategy aims at providing medicines and diagnostic tools that enable tangible improvements in the health, quality of life and survival of patients.
Despite all issues, we see much space for engaging in ethical business here in Bangladesh and ensuring innovative molecule availability in the country. We see possibilities of an expansion in terms of bringing in new products and serving more patients. We have been here for three long decades and so we are able to see another way of continuing our journey and making an impact on patients' lives.
TBS: As you have explored many countries, what would you say are the similarities in challenges and success stories in health care, especially cancer care?
AAT: Bangladesh is doing excellent in terms of development. The recent achievements in the fight against communicable diseases are a very positive sign for the future. The pharmaceutical industry is still a generic driven market and there is scope to do more with biologics and making innovative products available for patients. The pharma industry is often considered as a business entity across the world, but Roche is beyond being a business organization and focused on serving patients by collaborating with development initiatives.
In terms of cancer care, I believe Bangladesh is on the right track on commitment and vision. We hope Bangladesh will also make achievements in fighting against non-communicable diseases.
There are still a lot of patients with rare diseases and they need to be addressed too. The financial burden of cancer and rare diseases is significant for LIC and LMICs; devising financial strategies are very important. Quality improvement on testing or diagnostic facilities is another challenge where we need to put extra attention.
TBS: Since you were part of Roche Bangladesh's pioneering journey, what differences do you see regarding the firm's three decades in Bangladesh? Do you see any progress in the pharmaceutical industry?
AAT: The airport used to be more in an area surrounded by greenery and today it is in the city! The pharma market of Bangladesh is still generic driven.
Bangladesh's progress in different aspects has already been globally recognized and we feel proud to be in Bangladesh. The pharma market is still generic driven where the world is moving to innovation driven strategies. Despite all the challenges the progress of the generic market and fighting against communicable diseases are something extraordinary.
Our purpose goes beyond market share; our key purpose is beyond selling product. Our purpose is to serve patients and ensure access to therapies. We have many more duties beyond business and we oblige thereby.
TBS: In the recent Cancer Prioritization in Bangladesh and NCD Focus, how do you see the prospects of serving patients at Bangladesh?
AAT: We congratulate the Bangladesh government on its timely initiative by making a bold commitment on non communicable diseases, especially on cancer. This will surely open new doors for cancer patients in Bangladesh. We very much look forward to the implementation of the commitment and the scope of collaboration to serve patients together.
Future treatment will be based on data, data analysis and diagnostic and then treatment. We work together with all these tools.
Affordability will be another concern, as Bangladesh is an out of pocket market. The recent commitment on Universal Health Coverage will also be the key instrument to serve cancer patients.
TBS: What are the challenges you see in implementing the vision set out by the recent cancer care plan in Bangladesh?
AAT: Bangladesh still lacks in a nation-wide awareness campaign for prevention and control of cancer. Relevant policies are coming in and we believe participation of the stakeholders will make those policies more effective. Primary screening, diagnostic services and affordability are the key challenges for the country's cancer care plan. We have fantastic medicines to serve patients and we very much look forward to the expansion of our portfolio.
Sometimes, long registration time is a challenge and comes in the way of serving patients faster. Customs duties, regulations involving process hamper access to treatment, which can be solved easily if addressed properly. In addition, we believe the government has the willingness to help organizations and make a better environment for everyone.
TBS: What are your thoughts on Bangladesh's health policy? In what ways do you think it can be made stronger in order to help people who are fighting against cancer and rare diseases?
AAT: Bangladesh's cancer prioritization is a very important milestone. For us, as an innovative company we request that our participation be ensured so that we can bring knowledge, partners and scientific advancement for Bangladeshi patients. As the government is keen to serve patients and ensure innovative medicines, we expect the regulatory authority will continue to support us so that we can also serve patients.
We want to make our contribution in Bangladesh by working with the government as we have been doing in the last three decades. Bangladesh is quite open and has a big generic industry here. For a company like us we have a lot of innovative ideas and we would like to bring those in to make an impact on patients in Bangladesh.
TBS: What are your plans regarding eight divisional cancer centers?
AAT: We are excited about the cancer centers, which point to the future of cancer care in Bangladesh. We are open to a dialogue with the government on how we can be a partner on this journey.
If we could know the detailed plans of the cancer centers and potential scope to contribute, we will be open to dialogue and will collaborate. We can work on helping in treatment options, on know-how that we can share, data management and disease management. We have similar experiences in other countries, like scientific partnership with physicians for cancer and other diseases; we also have made diagnostic contributions in other countries. We have so many other examples, but every collaborative effort is different.
TBS: How would you describe your experiences with Roche Bangladesh and what are your plans for Bangladesh?
AAT: We want to expand, to ensure access to new innovations. This is very critical, an expansion of portfolio that will really make a difference in the lives of millions of patients. Our key goal is to ensure that our products and research reach patients irrespective of location. We will do the necessary investment.
TBS: What is the good news for patients in Bangladesh?
AAT: Roche has a fantastic pipeline of products; we are bringing in new solutions for new therapeutic areas. We are not only bringing products to Bangladesh but also addressing the issue of access to treatment. We are also working on awareness, diagnostics, capacity and financing solutions. We are introducing various Patient Support Programs for patients, who are getting our products at more affordable prices. We have also launched the 'Aastha' project, where we provide free psychological counselling and other required services for our patients for free.