Interview: Hasan Ulusoy
What can be done to enhance the performance of Turkey’s pharmaceuticals industry both domestically and in the wider region?
HASAN ULUSOY: I would like to answer this question with an evaluation of the past 10 years. With the launch of the health care transformation programme a decade ago, medical services became more effective at reaching our population. Publicly owned treatment institutions are providing more efficient services under one roof, and patients are more easily accessing health care facilities and receiving services faster. Patients with access to the Social Security Institution, which covers almost half of the population, can easily obtain medications from commercial pharmacies. Although there may be inconveniences, the family practitioner system is working. In 2003 the average was two visits to health care institutions per person, whereas in 2013 this number exceeded the OECD average and quadrupled to eight.
These are great accomplishments for our country. However, since resources have not been available to keep up with the sector’s financial growth, there have been troublesome consequences for pharmaceuticals suppliers. Today the prices of most pharmaceuticals are lower than they were 10 years ago. It is almost impossible to draw up a healthy budget as it is unknown when and by how much prices will drop. The discount for public purchases is another problem. One of the hottest topics for debate is the euro exchange rate, which is the basis for our prices. The same parity has been utilised to determine prices for the past five years, and the governing exchange rate is stabilised at 1.9595, whereas it should have been updated four years ago pursuant to the relevant regulations. Today if what is necessary is done, prices should rise by almost 50%.
What is the state of research and development (R&D) in Turkey, and what else can be done to increase support for R&D on pharmaceuticals?
ULUSOY: Due to the previously mentioned reasons, it is becoming more and more difficult to allocate resources to R&D that is essential for the continued success of pharmaceutical companies. This sector suffered a great loss in 2014. This makes it more difficult for companies to make plans for the future. Despite these challenges, there are serious improvements taking place, as well as a shift in the government’s perspective on R&D over the past year.
In January 2015 Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu announced an economic transformation programme in which two out of nine targets are related to health and allocating support for local pharmaceuticals producers. Regardless of the inconvenience, we are allocating approximately 5% of our turnover to R&D every year. Nowadays, we are aiming to develop biotechnological products for the first time in our country in collaboration with government research institutes. I am looking forward to announcing good news on our country’s first biosimilar product in the near future.
What is your outlook for the sector in 2015, and what challenges do think the pharmaceuticals and wider health care sector will have to overcome?
ULUSOY: I am concerned as to whether there will be solutions to the existing challenges in the industry. In order to keep the sector running, we need to export more of our products. We need to build capacity to develop and market products with added value, and this can only be done through increasing the number of R&D initiatives. There are many examples from around the world on which we can model when brainstorming new strategies to boost the sector.
We know that in other countries consistent support and incentives come mostly from the government. In this regard, we appreciate that our own government has prioritised the pharmaceuticals industry, albeit a bit late. The importance of pharmaceuticals and R&D in the segment has finally been acknowledged. Encouraged by this recent process, I hope 2015 will be a turning point for the industry as a whole and that the focus will remain uninterrupted under Turkey’s 2023 vision.
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