Following AbbVie’s landmark acquisition of Allergan, Business Partners talks
to Pascal Apostolides, Managing Director for AbbVie in Greece, and John Bessis, Country Manager Greece and Cyprus at Allergan Aesthetics, about the merger,
the Greek pharma landscape, and the future of the industry.
Since launching in 2013, AbbVie has made it its mission to find new approaches to addressing today’s health issues and make an impact on people’s lives by being at the forefront of biopharmaceutical research and new science. What has that meant for AbbVie in Greece thus far?
Pascal Apostolides: AbbVie’s mission is to achieve a remarkable impact on people’s lives through innovative medicines. We are a passionate, diverse and inclusive organization that supports the best ideas, wherever they originate. We bring people together because we know that collaboration is the key to breaking barriers and exploring new frontiers in science. We are committed to R&D, which we have almost doubled since 2013 and which has resulted in 14 approvals of products or indications. Since 2013, our revenue grew from $18 billion to more than $33 billion in six years. All this and more ranks us at the top of our peer group.
We know that collaboration is the key to breaking barriers and exploring new frontiers in science – Pascal Apostolides
In Greece, despite a decade of deep crisis, the ingredients to shape a strong pharmaceutical sector are still present. We believe in Greece’s potential, and we are working to improve public health through breakthrough therapies for serious diseases. We are collaborating with health authorities to support the sustainability of the healthcare system and to improve access to innovative therapies for patients. We are investing in clinical trials to support the economy and the labor market and the level of clinical practice, by building our Operations Hub—which is responsible for 16 countries across Europe, the Middle East and Africa—in Athens. AbbVie is the only multinational pharmaceutical company in Greece to do so and is in the second place of clinical trials conducted in Greece. We also support more than 40 direct jobs through an annual R&D investment of more than six million euros, and we give back to society through several meaningful social responsibility programs.
In May, AbbVie completed the acquisition of Allergan, further raising its profile as an industry colossus with a remarkable drug portfolio. Tell us a bit more about this merger.
P.A.: This integration of the two companies creates the fourth largest pharmaceutical company worldwide based on revenue. We will continue to perform at the top tier of our peer group, with strong profitability and significant cashflow, and we have the financial resources to invest in our franchise areas to ensure longterm growth and make a difference for millions of people around the world.
We are committed to ensuring that patients fulfill their dreams for a better life through effective treatments – John Bessis
With our enhanced growth platform fueling longterm industry-leading performance, this merger allows us to diversify AbbVie’s business while sustaining our focus on innovative science and the advancement of our robust pipeline into the future. We operate in several therapeutic areas including immunology, oncology, aesthetics, neuroscience, eye care, virology, gastroenterology, women’s health, and other specialty areas. We will continue to focus on developing medicines that deliver strong clinical performance, provide more benefit to patients, and deliver economic value – particularly where significant need exists.
Taking into account this enhanced growth potential, what can we expect to see in the coming time in terms of innovation in AbbVie’s key therapeutic categories?
P.A.: This acquisition allows us to remain focused on continuing our investment in discovering and developing innovative medicines for critical areas of medical need, and building a longterm, sustainable growth company. This great collaboration expands and diversifies AbbVie’s revenue base and complements existing leadership positions in immunology and hematologic oncology, and Allergan provides new growth opportunities in neuroscience, eye care and a global aesthetics business, with leading brands.
Our combined company means that we can help more patients and make a greater impact in more than 60 conditions, with more than 30 brands. This diversified on-market portfolio will drive the existing AbbVie growth platform to approximately $30 billion in revenues for 2020, with combined revenues of approximately $50 billion. It also positions the company for enhanced longterm growth potential, a growing dividend, and investment in innovation in each of its therapeutic categories. Together with our new colleagues, we will focus on the therapeutic areas where we have proven expertise but we will use our scientific expertise to discover and develop medicines for diseases for which patients have limited treatment options including endometriosis, uterine fibroids, cystic fibrosis, reproductive health, ulcerative colitis, and irritable bowel syndrome.
Specifically, as concerns AbbVie and Allergan in Greece, how will this merger affect your operations in the country?
P.A.: Allergan is now AbbVie, but we will need some time to complete the full transition. AbbVie will be the parent brand and strategic endorser. The Allergan brand name will be retained in certain cases with exceptional value for external audiences as in the transition to “Allergan Aesthetics, an AbbVie company” for medical aesthetics. The Allergan brand will be used for the eye care portfolio, while it will be named as a manufacturer for the therapeutic use of botulinum toxin type A. AbbVie will be used as a company and employer name, and Allergan employees are AbbVie employees.
Most importantly, our joint strong portfolio marks a bold step forward in advancing our mission: to make a remarkable impact on patients’ lives.
Allergan is an established leader in medical aesthetics. Can you tell us a bit about the company’s activity in Greece until now?
John Bessis: Allergan has been strategically investing in R&D, allocating approximately $1.6 billion last year to the development of new molecules. We have adopted an open science model, resulting in a very promising portfolio in seven therapeutic categories. In many of them, we are leaders or have significant growth during the last years, in over 100 countries.
In Greece, Allergan was established four years ago; our presence in the Greek market includes 10 brands in three therapeutic categories: eye care; neuroscience, as a leader in spasticity; and, of course, medical aesthetics. We created a new company with several new talented members to quickly transform the organization and focused on effective account management by providing fast and personalized solutions. We have also managed to differentiate Allergan from the competition through efficient product management and the substantial value of our educational programs through the Allergan Medical Institute. During 2016-2018, more than 276,000 patients were treated with Allergan eye care and neuroscience products and more than 1,700 healthcare professionals were trained in Allergan training programs. As an AbbVie company, Allergan Aesthetics will continue to provide top customer service programs and grow further its leadership position.
How will this merger affect Allergan’s operations in the country and boost the development of new drugs in your main therapeutic categories?
J.B.: Allergan is now AbbVie, and this underlines a new era for both companies. Our commitment to patients, partners and employees remains unwavering, and joining forces will only positively impact our established partnerships. Both teams have worked diligently and enthusiastically to achieve this merger, and we are excited about the future, which holds more investment, more innovative therapies, more scientific progress.
The Allergan brand will be used for the eye care portfolio, while at the same time it will be mentioned as the manufacturer for the therapeutic use of botulinum toxin type A.
In Medical Aesthetics the legacy is even more important. “Allergan Aesthetics, an AbbVie company” has a standalone portfolio that will continue to have a leading position in the field worldwide, as well as in Greece. Strengthened by the consolidation of two leading companies, Allergan Aesthetics has the resources and infrastructure to achieve outstanding results in R&D, capitalize on more opportunities, cultivate innovative ideas, and promote medical education. In Greece, we focus mainly on the world-renowned botulinum toxin type A for cosmetic use (VISTABEL®), the world’s leading brand of hyaluronic acid facial fillers (Juvéderm®) and the FDA-approved cryolipolysis treatment (CoolSculpting®).
This merger comes at a particularly interesting, and perhaps trying, time for the world in general and the pharmaceutical industry specifically. What are your thoughts on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic thus far and on how it will continue to affect—impact or inspire—the industry moving forward?
P.A.: First and foremost, the pandemic underlined the fact that people’s health is fundamental. It also underlined a strong correlation between public health and economic growth. Public spending on healthcare is not a cost factor, but one of the most important investments for our society. To avoid similar future crises, we must ensure that public policies for health and economy are part of a circular process, where strong economic growth supports an effective healthcare system. Innovative therapies are fundamental for a sustainable healthcare system, as there can be no prevention policy without vaccines, no efficient primary healthcare system without innovative therapies that prevent hospitalizations or minimize hospitalization days and reduce surgeries and extensive use of intensive care units. Pharmaceutical innovation is our pathway for the fourth industrial revolution through clinical trial investments, as well as a strong prerequisite for the silver economy, a sector that can support the Greek economy, mainly through medical tourism.
J.B.: Completed during this unprecedented health crisis, this merger underlines the need for a solid pharmaceutical sector that works for the benefit of people and patients. Our actions have and will continue to focus on innovation and on improving people’s health. Health is a matter of life—a better life. We are committed to ensuring that patients fulfill their dreams for a better life through effective treatments. However, we cannot do it alone; cooperation with the state and healthcare authorities is vital. We stand strong to work for a stable framework of cooperation that will secure a sustainable and innovative healthcare system and a sustainable business environment.