September 10, 2019/Caitlin Mazur/Artificial Intelligence

The Veeva Commercial Summit in Sao Paulo is right around the corner, and we’re getting ready by sitting down with one of the newest members of our customer success team, Eduardo Alonso. With 21 years experience working at major pharmaceutical companies and consulting firms in Brazil, Eduardo has a wealth of insight about the current state of the LatAm life sciences market, which he shares with us today. 

Let’s start with your background. What drew you to the life sciences? 

I’ve been immersed in the Latin American health care market for the last two decades, working at large multinational companies like Pfizer and AstraZeneca—as well as medium-sized companies like Tecnofarma and Mundipharma—leading teams in sales operations, commercial excellence, marketing and sales.

I love how dynamic this industry is. From the regulatory environment and therapeutic innovation to the commercial process and customer expectations, the market never stops changing. It mirrors my own need to be in constant evolution. I’m always learning something new and working with incredible people who make me feel challenged all the time. 

How does the Latin American life sciences market differ from others around the world?

Compared to life sciences markets in the United States or EU, the LatAm region still has significant room for development. Today, just six countries—Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, Colombia, Chile and Peru—account for more than 70 percent of the region’s total market. 

Like other emerging markets, robust growth depends on a number of larger market dynamics like the expanding middle class, favorable demographic trends (a growing elderly population, for example) and the self-pay nature of most primary care practices, which drives the consumption of over-the-counter drugs. 

It’s important to remember that each country has their own set of regulations, approval processes and health care systems. There is one trend, however, that’s ubiquitous across the market landscape: the rise of generics. Generic prescription drugs is the fastest-growing pharma category across Latin America, regardless of whether health care is taken care of by the government or covered by private health insurance with high out-of-pocket costs for the consumer. 

In Brazil, for example, sales of generic medications have tripled in value since 2009, at the same time that several dozen patents for popular branded prescription have expired (IQVIA report 2018). I’ve seen this scenario play out across the world, prompting most pharmaceutical companies to shift their portfolios to focus on more targeted therapeutic areas like oncology, immunology, infections diseases and others. 

In these situations, the payer (or a scenario with multiple stakeholders) becomes much more relevant, as does the need to capture opportunity throughout the customer journey using multichannel engagement.  

What are some major pain points you’re seeing from commercial pharma customers in Latin America? Do they differ from other markets?

Outside of differences caused by market maturity, I have the impression that the pain points faced by our Latin American customers are fundamentally the same. 

The commercial model hasn’t evolved much in the last 20 years, so we’re still seeing a big disconnect between sales and marketing—especially in terms of execution. Sales teams adhere to their routine of visits, frequency and sequence, while marketing continues to segment customers into large groups and run parallel agendas despite what sales teams are demanding from the field. A few companies are beginning to introduce multi channel marketing (MCM) initiatives, but overall, personalization is the exception, not the rule. 

Translating analytics into real-world actions is also a challenge for most companies. Taking advantage of the available data requires a massive effort from internal teams, who must load, transform, and interpret data before they can generate insights that make an impact in the field or effectively influence brand strategy.

For the most part, the decision to act on the data happens on an individual level—a potentially high-risk activity that often falls by the wayside because of the additional work required. In this sense, I also see a huge opportunity for companies to improve the way they manage campaigns, measure results, allocate resources and leverage the investments they’ve already made.

What is the market’s appetite for decision support, artificial intelligence and machine learning in life sciences? 

We can already find AI initiatives in areas like diagnosis, clinical trials, and patient tracking and mapping. But until now, nothing has been available to improve intelligent engagement in the commercial space, and the market is eager for help. 

The money companies spend every year on sales and marketing significantly impacts their operational margins, but they still aren’t seeing proportional returns. I have no doubt that any tool or technology that can improve efficiency in this area would be very well received. 

How do you think AI and machine learning can help the Latin American life sciences commercial market specifically? 

Aligning sales, marketing, and other relevant commercial-facing areas is absolutely critical for the Latin American market. 

This coordination is key to improving the way companies manage data, optimize MCM and deliver the personalized customer experience today’s HCPs expect. Aktana’s AI enables commercial teams to stay agile enough to better meet HCP needs while providing real methods for measuring engagement, execution and impact. 

Ultimately, the patient is, and should be, the real beneficiary. I believe that if AI can empower commercial teams to deliver better treatment information to physicians, who can in turn deliver better treatment to patients, we’ll have met our mission. 

Heading to the Veeva Commercial Summit in Sao Paulo on September 17th? Say olá to Eduardo at the Aktana booth.