What do you see as the main challenges facing the pharmaceutical industry at the moment and how is Shionogi responding to these?
Advanced countries such as Europe, the US and Japan are all facing difficult financial issues so I think one of the challenges for pharmaceutical companies is providing innovative medicines at accessible, affordable prices. Product development costs us a lot of money but at the same time governments cannot afford to keep paying high prices so we have to carefully choose the therapeutic areas that we focus on and ensure that the clinical development process is efficient in order to supply products at an affordable price.
What is your vision for Shionogi in Europe?
It’s been a dream for me to have a presence in Europe for Shionogi. Almost three years ago when I made a decision to move into Europe it was a great opportunity. Europe is very scientifically advanced and health technology assessment agencies in European countries are the world leaders.
I would like to see Shionogi Limited become thought leaders in pharmaceutical market access and in conjunction with the science in Japan and the US, I’d like Europe to be contributing in keeping that innovation going.
In addition, the health authority in Europe, the European Medicines Agency (EMA), is very scientifically driven. They often have differing views to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the US or the Pharmaceuticals Medical Devices Agency (PMDA) in Japan and having access to the EMA and gaining feedback from them is very important to us.
How does ‘patients first’ manifest itself in your work as part of Shionogi?
I try to meet as many physicians as possible in Japan, I actually visit them in their offices with our sales representatives quite often. I do this because I really want to learn from those who see patients every day and find out what the unmet medical needs are from their perspective and how we can help them.
It may sound strange but I also try to go with my parents to hospital if they need to visit and spend time in the waiting room. I try to learn about what is going on in the hospital in reality and get a sense of how people feel, who they are and what we can do to help them. We’re not talking about cold, inhuman products; these are medicines that can really help people.
My background is in research and development and when my colleagues come to me and tell me they’ve created a great compound, I always tell them that if this compound can’t be used in a patient friendly manner then it doesn’t mean anything. The formulation is very important, it must be easy to use or administer. We develop pharmaceutical products, not just compounds and the patient’s need should always be at the heart of that process.