S01 E03

Canada's Innovations in Pharma

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Pamela Fralick


Innovative Medicines Canada

In our third episode, Peter Brenders, Founder & President of Kontollo Health, talks with the president of Innovative Medicines Canada, Pamela Fralick, about Canada's innovations in the pharma industry.



Thank you for downloading the second episode of the NPC Podcast from the National Pharmaceutical Congress. This program is all about discussing and considering the purpose, process and people of the pharma industry during the age of Covid. Today we're continuing the healthcare conversation by answering questions sent by listeners like you.


This program is presented in co-operation with Impres. Impres’ best-in-class commercial solutions drive top-line and bottom-line growth with maximum salesforce, flexibility, speed and efficienc. Learn more about their next-generation commercial model at www.impres.com.


On today’s podcast our guest is Pamela Fralick, president of Innovative Medicines Canada in Ottawa. Your host for today’s podcast is Peter Brenders of Kontollo Health.


First, here’s Mitch Shannon of Chronicle Companies.




Thanks Liona and thanks to each of the listeners who sent us feedback on our first two episodes. This podcast is about getting you informed responses to the many things that we in the life sciences need to know about the post-Covid future of our business.


It's coming up on one full year since the Patented Medicines Price Review Board (PMPRB) surprised the drug industry by announcing proposed changes to pricing formulae. The proposed amendments to regulations were regarded by many as a disruption to the research based pharma industry. Several listeners including Rudy Fernandes of Mississauga have questions about what PMPRB might mean during a pandemic. To get answers, our host Peter Brenders spoke this week with Pamela Fralick, president of Innovative Medicines Canada. Here's their conversation.




Well hello and thanks for joining us at the NPC podcast series. My name is Peter Brenders and I'm your host today. Joining me today I'm delighted to have Pamela Fralick the president of Innovative Medicines Canada. We're going to talk a little bit about Covid-19 and its effect on the pharma industry, and in particular, Canada's companies. So, let's get started.

Pamela, a lot's been going on. We've had some great companies in pharma in Canada that continue to do great work and great research. But Covid is changing our ability to act for our companies to work creatively, but it's also an opportunity. If you think about some of the pharma companies that we have in Canada, what do you think would be some of their capabilities that will help them pivot or best adapt to a post-Covid marketplace?



Thanks Peter, first of all, for the chance to have this conversation. It is an important one. When you ask that question, the first thing I reflect on, to be honest, is what exactly is the post-Covid marketplace? And I don't have the answer just yet, but the other question is equally important: when is it? Are we talking now? Are we talking August, maybe next April after another wave has gone through? Maybe it's 2022.


So, I think the timing and where we are in the pandemic does have a bit of a play on that kind of question. Still in the middle of it right now, in my view, so maybe a little premature to be speculating.

But that being said, I would draw attention to the fact this is an innovative industry, right? We specialize in flexibility and adaptability and resilience. We're opportunity driven, I would say pivoting is in our DNA.


So, despite the very difficult and challenging times, the uncertain times we're in, I think our members have already shown and demonstrated all of those qualities during Covid-19. There's this incredible, and overused word, but it is accurate here, the ‘unprecedented’ collaboration across companies, with governments, with researchers, as I think that that really stands us in good stead, there's a greater agility and ability to adapt how we work, how we work together. And as I say, with government, I think that our members have found ways to scale up to move quickly. They've been leveraging the tremendous research talent that makes Canada so attractive to all of these companies, even globally. So I think there's evidence of us having done very well during Covid-19. And if we can carry on those qualities throughout and post Covid-19, it probably puts us in a great position, at least those companies that can carry on those qualities beyond Covid-19.

I would say though, one last comment in that question, all roads lead to PMPRB. That's going to be a theme and I think of some of the things that I'll be throwing out here and answer to your questions. I mean, we do need an environment that appreciates innovation and provides that viable business environment that provides a balance between regulatory controls but still encourages investment and research activities. So, bottom line, I think the companies that are able to withstand Canada's very unwieldy and complex, uncertain, unpredictable, regulatory environment are going to have the best chance of surviving through and beyond COVID 19. Really PMPRB, believe it or not, as the greatest challenge, I think, to success around the pandemic and beyond.



You're listening to an interview with Pamela Fralick, President of innovative medicines Canada.

You mentioned there's exciting developments that the Canadian companies are bringing to Canada, they're adapting, they're collaborating. They're showing what innovation is truly all about. Picking up on your point on collaboration and the importance then you talk about collaboration among companies, collaboration among researchers, among governments, and then you raise the point about the challenge that Canadian companies have in an environment that needs innovation.


Do you see the world of collaboration improving as we go through COVID more such that the industry can do what it does so well and bringing new technologies, new vaccines and new treatments to Canadians through better collaboration?



Well, I sincerely hope so. I think there's a lot of demonstration going on right now both on the government side and on the industry side, as well as in research institutions, academia, that the world's our oyster, I mean, anything is possible.

So the quick answer to that is yes. It must. It should. I hope it will. Going forward. The demonstration is there. We have on our website, innovativemedicines.ca, and we've been keeping track of all of the collaborations that we can identify regularly updated on daily weekly basis, as needed, and it's just tremendous. So, who would not want to carry that on moving forward and beyond a pandemic?



Related to sort of innovations in Canada, some have said that Canada is mostly a country that just commercializes technology and doesn't influence the global strategies. But I think, to your point on innovative medicines.ca, where you're listing those innovations that come in Canada, you see a post-Covid opportunity for Canada and, and its companies to play a bigger role in the global game plan of pharma?



Yeah, absolutely. I think that's just a definite yes, the opportunity is there. If you look just at today, pre and during Covid-19, I would say that this industry is, if you will, a triple threat. I mean, first of all, our companies do invest at least 10% of their revenues in R&D, despite what some say to the contrary, the evidence is very, very clear in my mind. Secondly, our CEOs are set up. They're competing fiercely to bring more global investment dollars to Canada. So, the desire to bring more investment in more manufacturing perhaps even is here. And third, Canada is an attractive country for global pharma companies. We've got talented researchers, we have great research institutions. We have a universal health system that we may like to complain about. It could be better, but it's admired by many. We have a diverse populations ideal for the 4500 clinical trials that are underway at any given time.

So just today, we've got a great situation. And then as we've been talking about through Covid-19, it's proof of our ability to innovate our ability to rise to the challenge. Look at Medicago in Quebec, where they've, they're in the running to find a vaccine for Covid-19. That's based here in Canada, Eli Lilly is partnering with a Vancouver based company seller. They're isolating those naturally produced antibodies that we hope can be used for treatment and prevention and we need to tell these stories be proud of the successes really help build the profile of Canada as a place to invest and to lead innovation.

Another thing that's been talked a lot about through this pandemic is self-sufficiency. It's a priority topic of discussion across governments, throughout the pandemic, from PPEs right through to medicines and vaccines. Now, that may not be all that practical from an innovation or economic perspective. And you know that story and our listeners better than I would. But there's definitely room for Canada to attract more investment and even manufacturing, I would say to this country, once again, though, all roads lead to  PMPRB. And if we can't achieve that better balance between the cost containment regulatory actions underway, and that desire for more investment, it's not going to happen.

So, you know, you'll see a situation where products are not being launched here. We know that already. They're not coming here because of the uncertainty. clinical trials are going to start to dry up, researchers will leave the country if there aren't efficient clinical trials. So I'd say to sum up, I guess we have an opportunity. Are we ready and able to take advantage of it?



I'm Peter benders, and you're listening to the NPC podcast.

So Covid has introduced, the question that you talked about is as a country, can we be self-sufficient? And you think about the importance that pharma has, and the products and innovations and vaccines that it can bring to Canadians. Much will depend on that self-sufficiency, overlying that you talked about an environment for innovation that Canada has. And yet there's a challenge in front of us known as the PMPRB and the problems it's introducing to bring those innovations here. What would you say to the Canadian government or to the public at large of what needs to change to allow Canada have an environment or a better environment for innovation?



Well, it's about balance. This industry understands 100% that sustainability is an issue for the health system and want to be part of the solution. And so we get the governments are focused on cost containment, but we want them to be focused on value as well. And there does seem to be, well, there is a disconnect between certain arms of the government, the issue is not being addressed by in a whole of government way.

So, we do have great things happening. I said over innovation supporting this industry wanting it to thrive wanting to double its investments in its employment, and all these good metrics. But on the other hand, you have regulations that have been passed by law just waiting to be implemented, that will take up to 70-80% of revenue away from a company. So how do you do both of those two things there? It's pretty dramatic. So, we talk a little bit more in terms of all the specifics, but that may be the, you know, the top line takeaway, I guess, for this podcast.



So, if I can sum up some of the key points you've made here, it's important, I think, for our listeners to remember and to understand that the companies are investing at least 10% of their revenues in research and development in Canada, they're investing heavily here. You mentioned the CEOs are competing among other countries to bring investment to Canada, and that we can become a very attractive environment. But if we're going to be self-sufficient as a country, if we're going to focus on Canada, and the industry being part of the solution, we need to have an environment for innovation. Any last comments you'd like to make? Pamela?



Yeah, well, I would like to make one or two comments about what a great situation we have here in Canada to draw more investment and innovation into this country. If we can get that balance right. That is the key word. You know, the pharmaceutical industry is global in nature. We understand that. So, we're fighting to bring dollars into this country. But the pharmaceutical industry is one of the top three R&D funders in Canada.

As I mentioned, the federal government has been promoting it through, I said, they've identified biosciences as a targeted industry to support and promote through their HBEST report. The Health BioSciences Economic Strategy Table Report, are provinces are developing Life Sciences strategies, recognizing how important this industry is Quebec, Alberta, we believe Ontario is on the way, B.C., P.E.I., just a few weeks back, released an impact report in the bio sciences. And there this field is second only to potatoes, as I call it, but agrifood in general. So, it's a huge player even in a small province.

Look at what some of our main companies are doing already in Canada, Sanofi and Roche, Medicago even in the midst of really dire circumstances around the pandemic, but also the threat of the PMPRB regulations. So, if we really do want this industry to thrive and be a key player in the future of Canada. It's an opportunity for us to grab and it's about getting that balance right we understand regulations we understand cost containment, but don't drum this industry out of the country.



Thank you Pamela, for your thoughts today and your message is so very clear. It's an opportunity. Pharma is an opportunity for Canada to grab and make a difference for Canadians. You've been listening to Pamela Fralick, the president of Innovative Medicines Canada. I'm your host Peter Brenders. Thank you for listening.


Thanks to Pamela and Peter for sharing the view that there's an exiciting future ahead for Pharma in Canada.

Speaking of exciting, I've got good news for iPhone fans. Now you can get this podcast through Apple iTunes as well as other podcast sites. Let your colleagues know about that and subscribe to the NPC Podcast, have it sent each week to your phone and inbox. Sign up at Soundcloud, Podbean, iTunes or www.pharmacongress.info.

Registration will open soon for the 14th Annual National Pharmaceutical Congress: this year a series of weekly virtual webinars that begins Wednesday, October 21st, 2020. Save the date and watch the website for details at www.pharmacongress.info.

We do welcome your questions. Email them to health@chronicle.org or call our comment line. Leave your name, a call-back number and the question you'd like to ask. We use the best questions in our future NPC podcasts. Call 647-875-9011 and you might be part of our next episode.

Next week's guest will be Lee Ferreira, General Manager of Ferring Canada.

The NPC Podcast was presented in co-operation with Impres, Canada's next generation commercial partner. Learn more at www.impres.com.

In Toronto, I'm Mitch Shannon of Chronicle Companies. Your producer has been Jeremy Visser. The announcer was Liona Droid.

Thanks for listening. Have a great week everyone. Stay safe.