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Efficiency: a challenge for the pharmaceutical industry

Diaz en biotecnologiaTo ensure stability in the basic supply of medications and reduce shortages, on April 8, President Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez called for greater efforts to replace imports with domestic products and incorporate new ones; diversify markets and meet with export projections; while strengthening the investment process – despite the complex financial context – to increase productive capacity, strengthen technological and logistics infrastructure, and regulatory standards.

With the presence of Roberto Morales Ojeda, Political Bureau member and a Councils of State and Ministers vice president, leaders of the Party, the Federation of Cuban Workers, and representatives of various economic sectors, Díaz-Canel reiterated the importance of addressing the results achieved in 2018 by the Cuban Biotechnological and Pharmaceutical Industry Group, BioCubaFarma, a central organization of enterprise management.

The President recalled that this is a strategic sector within the National Plan of Economic and Social Development through 2030, to which we have a special personal commitment, he said, to Fidel, the most convinced founder of this institution, and Raúl, a consistent promoter of Cuban science.

The country, he noted, is facing an extremely complex moment, within the context of increasing hostile rhetoric from the United Sates directed toward Latin America and Caribbean. The threats and interference in important revolutionary processes in the region have expanded, as have media campaigns of false lies and accusations that seek to discredit the Cuban Revolution before the world, to support imperialism’s ambitions to destroy us.

Such events are not removed from many elements that had an impact last year on important productive indicators of BioCubaFarma’s development, the President stated.

As relevant aspects which must be addressed, he emphasized income from exports and instability in the pharmaceutical industry’s deliveries to the Public Health system, leading to numerous shortages and limited availability of basic drugs in the country’s network of pharmacies.

BioCubaFarma CEO Dr. Eduardo Martínez stated in his 2018 the balance report that the Enterprise Group reached commercial production of 1,901 MM CUP. While this represents only 94% of the projected amount, production was increased by 111 MM CUP, as compared to the previous year.

Such an increase in the level of production allowed a decrease of approximately 40% in shortfalls of medications compared to the last two years. However, a number of drugs were affected at various times during the year and this had an adverse impact on the population.

“This is a situation that is going to become more complex in 2019 and it is important that both the population and sector workers be informed, because it has to do with very severe sanctions that have been levied on sister countries with which we have cooperation agreements. Added to this is resurging financial persecution of Cuba and the economic blockade, which has prevented financing from flowing regularly,” the President said.

“We have depended on government agreements and this element is limiting our management methods, which we must change to include other perspectives that allow us to maintain this institution’s progress and growth,” the President reflected.

It is not fortuitous, given this scenario, that the country’s leadership, and in particular First Party Secretary Raúl Castro, has raised two priorities to the same level: defense of the nation and economic development, given the close relationship they share, Diaz-Canel noted.

Seeking more efficient government and enterprise management brings into focus the fundamental role that the socialist state enterprise in Cuba must play. In the opinion of the President of the Councils of State and Ministers, efficiency means work systems that articulate priorities, create adequate spaces for debate and participation, allow continuous monitoring of processes so that problems do not accumulate, propitiate proactive styles of work, with fewer obstacles and bureaucracy, and maintaining a close link with the basic productive level.

According to Díaz-Canel, “The efficient management to which we aspire has as an essential component: cadres, who, in the first place, must be sensitive to the problems of the people.”

He referred to the revolutionary discontent that should lead us to respond, advance, and solve problems, without forgetting attention to detail.

Another element noted during the discussion was training of the skilled workforce and the exodus of personnel. Regarding this issue, Díaz-Canel insisted on the importance of prioritizing work with youth, saying, “Many times, this exodus is affected by the salary problems we have, and this continues to be an underlying reason, but it is only a part of it. Today, although we don’t pay what people deserve, given the contribution they make – not because we don’t want to, but because of financing, we can’t assume that – this is one of the institutions in the country’s enterprise system with the highest average salary,” he noted.

We must ask ourselves how we pay attention to youth, how we can create conditions for their development, in which what everyone wishes to contribute is respected. In the future, we will pay more, he said, but if we don’t deal with this problem, the exodus will continue.

On another issue, he called attention to the importance of using tools like social communication focused on the internal audience, so the workforce knows the institution’s strategies; and computerization, both in the productive process, and via platforms that reach the population, so they can offer opinions, suggest, express concerns, and get answers.

The Cuban leader emphasized the importance to scientific research of maintaining ties with universities and sharing new technology being installed, making scientific poles teaching institutions. Likewise, he insisted that advantage must be taken of the existence of shorter technical university study programs, to meet the need for skilled workers.

As a strength, Díaz-Canel noted that today the country has approved all the policies proposed in the Guidelines relating to scientific-technical issues, the environment, innovation, high-tech companies, technological parks, and the university-enterprise connection, saying, “Now what remains is implementing them and taking advantage of the new opportunities they give us.”

Reinforcing negotiating teams, and adjusting them to the times, is imperative, he said, since our research will face more demanding regulations and be politicized. In this context, he called for advancing productive chains with direct foreign investment projects, not only with investments and joint ventures within the country, but abroad, as well.

“We must export more and collect payment for what we export,” he said. At the end of 2018, we had a balance of unpaid exports of a considerable amount, at a time when the country needs money. BioCubaFarma was one of the companies most involved. Since October, with a strict tracking system, we have recovered a significant amount. Import less, substitute imports, manage financing better, take advantage of innovation funds, and invest carefully with security and confidence in feasibility studies, are urgent needs to be addressed. Defending national production, including natural products, is also a demand of the country, the President reiterated.

Considering all of BioCubaFarma’s daily work and dedication, all the contributions and new products created by the institution’s scientists, Díaz-Canel said makes him proud to be Cuban, adding, “You are the pride of the Revolution.”

During the review it was learned that in 2018, 35 pharmaceutical registrations were obtained abroad, thus reaching a total of 740, which constitutes an important support to increase exports. Also noteworthy were negotiations in more than 50 countries, and talks with more than 70 new pharmaceutical and biotechnological companies, for the signing of contracts, outstanding among which was the culmination of negotiations with the Roswell Park Cancer Institute in New York, which will lead to the creation of a Cuba-U.S. joint venture in the Mariel Special Development Zone.

Although projections were not met, the investment plan reached the highest level in the last ten years, with an increase of 33% over the previous year, with special mention for advances in the CIGB-Mariel biotechnology industrial complex, and the completion of several investments projects that began operations. In research and development activity, positive results were achieved. Twenty-three new products were introduced and eight new patent requests were presented to the Cuban Office of Industrial Property, and 116 patents were granted internationally.

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