On May 16–17, 2023 St. Petersburg will host an anniversary 30th Russian Pharmaceutical Forum named after N.A. Semashko. The annual meeting will traditionally bring together the managers of the leading international and Russian pharmaceutical companies, representatives of regulatory authorities, professional associations, research organizations and the patient community.
On the eve of the event, Denis Chetverikov, the President of Akrikhin, gave an interview to Trinity Events Group and told about the development of the domestic pharmaceutical industry.
– Denis, 2022 appeared to be a turning point for the entire Russian economy. What are its outcomes for the pharma industry?
A high demand for medicines occurred in the spring of 2022. To meet the needs of the population for medicines, we had to maintain an increased production volume of pharmaceuticals. Alongside other companies, we faced unforeseen difficulties in substance and excipient deliveries. For this, we had to search for a replacement for our suppliers, including the suppliers of some packaging materials. But we had launched a supplier duplication project quite long ago, as far back as before 2020. This allowed us to switch to new suppliers while still maintaining high standards of quality.
– What problems have become the most sensitive for the industry? What tasks have the companies and you personally had to tackle as a priority?
The procurement process has become much more complicated, in particular the issue of order delivery from the overseas partners. While the logistic cycle “order—delivery” took two weeks for some types of raw materials before, in the new reality the lead times reach several months. At the same time, the delivery costs have grown manyfold. So, since the logistic routes we were used to malfunctioned, we needed some time to build new, stable connections.
Currently, this period is already downhill: we have switched to alternative suppliers wherever possible, and, in parallel, we have created an additional stock of raw materials where the introduction of alternative sources takes more time.
The situation with spare parts and supplies for the production equipment and laboratories remains a significant problem. As a rule, they are linked to the original equipment manufacturers to a great extent, and are purchased in the European countries. Thus, there are more restrictions on the possibilities to search for alternative suppliers of equipment spare parts for the time being. Out technicians are doing their best to solve the emerging problems and to ensure fast and safe logistic deliveries. Considering the increased demand for medicines, this issue is a top priority for us.
– The issue of localization in pharma emerged long ago, but has become especially topical with the imposition of large-scale sanctions. Has your company managed to get ready for this scenario?
Yes, I can say we have managed to prepare for localization in advance. Since 2018, Akrikhin has been implementing a stagewise large-scale investment programme whose ultimate objective is to ramp up the production capacity alongside technical fit out of the production complex. Several units of state-of-the-art manufacturing equipment have been put into operation over the last three years, which allowed us to build up the capacity of the solid dosage form shop by 30 %. Now we are focused on increasing the production capacity of semi-solid dosage forms, especially hormonal drugs, since we see a stably growing demand for this product category and consider it to be the most promising one.
– To what extent does Russia provide itself with domestic drugs and what is the potential of medicine and pharmaceutical substance production? In what niches is it higher in your opinion?
We are already quite strong in providing our patients with domestic products, by more than 70 %. But I would like to mention that it mainly relates to drugs for the treatment of the most common diseases, such as diabetes mellitus, cardiovascular and gastrointestinal disorders.
Provision of high-tech Russian products to the population remains a challenge. To my mind, the main prerequisite for the manufacturers investments into new development activities is availability of markets with a growth potential. Another important condition is the list of competencies for such development activities: long-time experience and expertise in a certain discipline, an own centre for drug development. One should also take into account the risks related to high costs of drug development and marketing.
An emerging development strategy of high-tech, innovative Russian products relies on the creation of novel molecules in the modern therapeutical classes. These disciplines can already boast of some innovations where studies have been conducted and evidence in the area of development efficacy and safety is available.
Numerous studies in this area reduce the risk of failure, but at the same time, the product being created loses significant clinical benefits versus the other innovations in the class. Such approach is also viable though, which is proven by the experience of Chinese companies.
– Akrikhin ranks 5th in the rating of Russian pharmaceutical manufacturers by sales volume in the retail market. What figures can we talk about and what allows you to demonstrate such results?
We do have something to be proud of. Our company has been present in the market for more than 85 years. Our portfolio counts over 200 medicines from therapeutical areas of the highest demand among the patients. Our production complex situated in Moscow region produces about 100 million packages of drugs annually, and about 98 % of this volume is intended for the Russian patients. We also export our products to the EAEU countries.
Besides that, we additionally manufacture some products as a contract manufacturer in the framework of partnership with the leaders of the global pharmaceutical industry. Our team counts more than 1400 employees working across the country.
– Are there niches, development areas where you would like to create new products? What are the difficulties related to clinical trials and marketing of innovative products?
First of all, Akrikhin is a generic maker. We strive to develop our leadership in the therapeutical areas where we already have expertise: dermatology, cardiology, rheumatology, neurology and others. We are interested in Generic+ opportunities, that is, in marketing new dosage forms and combinations of products already existing and sought for. This approach allows us to market products that are more user friendly. For instance, in 2019 we launched a presentation form of colecalciferol that is unique for Russia — the soluble tablets Aquadetrim many of us know.
We continue to actively work in the direction of combination drugs. Soon two new combinations with candesartan will be commercially available: Hyposart N (candesartan and hypochlorothiazide) and Hyposart A (candesartan and amlodipine).
Implementation of novel production site technologies is extremely important for us. One of our latest acquisitions is a new production compactor which meets the highest requirements and standards for pharmaceutical equipment. Thanks to such equipment, we can use the most state-of-the-art technologies in the development of new drugs.
Speaking of clinical trial challenges, I can say that they are mainly related to purchasing reference samples, namely, originator drugs. Procuring them has become very difficult now due to disrupted logistic chains, and, consequently, the costs have surged.
– If we speak about the relationship “manufacturer—distributor—retail”, what is the secret of efficient communication under the complex economic conditions? What is your wish for the other links of this chain as a manufacturer?
2022 has once again demonstrated the importance of regular and efficient dialogue between all the participants in the chain. We all must be more open, must discuss not only the current problems but look into the future and jointly develop the “rules” of interaction. Establishment of rules recognized by all, such as joint management of inventories and data transparency, will significantly boost communication and make it easier under the current conditions. This link should be the strongest one in order to rapidly respond to any changes.
– What objectives do you set for your team in 2023? What results would you like to achieve?
2022 has not been an easy year, it has been a year of big and highly unpredictable changes. But despite the external circumstances Akrikhin has shown its stability — we hold a firm and stable position in the market and have achieved considerable financial and commercial results. In 2023 we will focus on business robustness. It will be supported by increased operational efficiency and new strategic initiatives.
– What wishes and words of encouragement would you like to send to your colleagues? How can stability and efficient cooperation and agreement between the major manufacturers be achieved?
While striving to manufacture new products and maximize the profit, do not forget our main task — to care for people. If manufacturers focus on bringing still more benefits to the patients, we can achieve the best results.