MADRID, 20 Dec (APM) - Daily newspaper La Razón on Monday carried an interview with Jesús Ponce, head of Novartis in Spain, who said that the company contributes significantly to the country's economy, with €2.1 billion added to its gross domestic product (GDP).
Ponce told La Razón that the company has started to work on communicating its financial, economic and social contribution to society in order to change negative perceptions about pharma.
He said: "The repercussions of pharma's activity are not exclusively linked to production or sales, but also to the effects of medicines in patients, their wellbeing, family life, independence… All this can be quantified in fewer hospital stays, increased work productivity and other variables. We have analysed this in a report and, including direct and indirect jobs associated to our company, our contribution is worth €2.1 billion."
The report also shows that five million patients have been treated with Novartis' drugs in Spain, he added.
According to Ponce, in Novartis' global strategic plan, Spain is a key investment location. The ways to invest in Spain include hiring personnel and participation in R&D. "Spain is the third country in the EU in terms of investment from the company, whereas based on population or economic muscle it should be fifth or sixth," Ponce noted.
In his opinion, the government acknowledges Novartis' contribution to the economy, but he regrets that it does not take into account the investments pharma makes as an industry, with €1.1 billion spent in R&D in the country annually. "In absolute terms, this translates into €3 million daily. It is huge and it shows that we are the main R&D driver. However, there is not a sense that what we do is widely known or fairly appreciated," he added.
Ponce addressed sustainability, arguing that in the national healthcare system there is a balance between drugs whose patents expire and innovation and that suffices for affordability of new medicines.
More than one million patients unable to pay for their medicines in Spain
According to last year's official health survey, published by the ministry of health, 3% of patients in the country have stopped taking the medicines they had been prescribed because they cannot afford them, financial Cinco Días reported on Thursday.
The financial quoted Álex Brenchat, president of charity group Pharmaceutical Bank, as saying: "We need approximately €4.5 million to alleviate pharmaceutical poverty across Spain."
The organisation has been identifying patients in this situation with the help of primary care physicians and social workers and helping them out from 2007. "In the years of the financial crisis we saw there were people that could not afford their medicines, even though they only had to pay for 40% of their cost," Brenchat said.
From its foundation, the bank has had a focus on chronic patients, but also provides medicines for acute health problems with the support of the Red Cross and other charities, Cinco Días reported.
Drugs improved life expectancy over recent decades
On Friday, financial newspaper El Economista carries a lengthy article praising pharma as a bastion of the advances in health and economic progress over the past decades.
The newspaper lauds pharma's investment in research, development and innovation, but points out that its main achievement is "improving the life expectancy and quality of life of the population, particularly by facilitating access to new drugs among the disadvantaged".
According to El Economista, pharma's activity contributes to the wellbeing of society in different ways which are synergic. Pharmaceutical companies account for 20.3% of R&D investment in Spain, which makes it the leading sector in the research arena.
Pharma is a driver of economic prosperity, creates highly-qualified job positions. El Economista reports that 62.4% of pharma employees have a college degree. Additionally, pharma's products represent 25% of all of hi-tech exports from Spain.
PharmaMar files new lung cancer drug in U.S.
Spain's PharmaMar has filed lurbinectedin for relapsed small cell lung cancer (SCLC) in the U.S., daily El País, financial newspapers Expansión and Cinco Días reported on Wednesday. (APMHE 65549
In an unrelated Friday story, Cinco Días reports that the company's licensing deal with Jazz for the drug, sold under the brand name Zepsyre, sent its share price up 19%.