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Boehringer Ingelheim: Achievements to be proud of

Allan Hillgrove, Member of the Board of Managing Directors with responsibility for the Human Pharma Business Unit at Boehringer Ingelheim, tells EPR about some of his company’s achievements that he is most proud of, and describes how it will face the digital challenge…

What would you say have been the most significant developments in the pharmaceutical industry over the past 21 years?

The pharmaceutical industry has made a large number of contributions to global human health over the past 21 years. One important contribution was making HIV/AIDS a treatable disease and not a death sentence. We are proud that we could play a part here with the first non-nucleosidereverse- transcriptase inhibitor Viramune and the protease inhibitor Aptivus.

Another recent example is making hepatitis C a curable disease with the direct-acting antivirals.

I also think that the launch of novel oral anticoagulants 50 years after warfarin was a milestone. Our Pradaxa was the first of these NOACs and still is the only one with a specific reversal agent. Finally, I would like to mention that the results which our clinical study EMPA-REG provided, showing that Jardiance not only has its merits in blood sugar control in type 2 diabetes but also reduced cardiovascular death by 38%, is the best news for type 2 diabetes patients for many years.

How has Boehringer Ingelheim evolved to meet these challenges?

Boehringer Ingelheim has been investing heavily in R&D for many years. This resulted in the launch of 14 new treatments in the last three years – an achievement that makes us very proud. We combine solid financial support with the freedom for employees to think outside the box and uncover innovation for the benefit of patients.

Looking ahead to the next few years, what do you think are likely to be the main opportunities and challenges affecting the industry?

I definitely see the growing influence of everything digital as both an opportunity and a challenge for the pharmaceutical industry. Digital knowledge needs to be built up in all functions and on all levels of companies. We need to learn how to gain maximum value from the data abundance for the benefit of patients. Data management will enable the industry to, for example, shorten development cycles and define efficacy and safety parameters for new treatments quicker than ever before. Communication via digital channels will allow us to reach out to customers remotely and to engage them in a meaningful dialogue.

Another challenge to the pharmaceutical industry is the increasing economic pressure on healthcare expenditure, coupled with the growing demand for better solutions. I also see this as an opportunity, as the industry will respond to this pressure by proving the economic value of our products to society.

How is Boehringer Ingelheim for these developments?

With respect to digital, we have dedicated teams in different functions across the company who analyse the opportunities. One example is expansion of our data science capabilities; we also place increasing emphasis on digital interactions with our customers and have the platforms in place to deliver increasing amount of digital communications to them. In addition, we recently set up BI X, a digital lab made up of representatives of ‘digital natives’ who sit in a separate entity and work on defined projects which they bring to a pilot phase within a very short time.

As to the economic pressure on healthcare expenditure, we respond with innovation in drugs and treatments and our capability to show that the resulting new health solutions are not only meeting patient needs but are also cost effective and provide associated economic benefits.

In addition, we look carefully into new partnership models that are attractive to payers and Boehringer Ingelheim, thereby allowing us to further invest into research and development of new innovative products.

What are Boehringer Ingelheim’s outstanding achievements of recent years, and what impact has this had on patients and potentially the industry in general?

Adding to the above mentioned Pradaxa and Jardiance achievements, we are also proud of our heritage and achievements in the respiratory and other therapeutic areas. Within respiratory, Spiriva is the most prescribed COPD treatment globally and adds benefits to COPD and asthma patients around the world.

Also in the respiratory area we are proud of our activities in orphan diseases. With Ofev we help patients suffering from idiopathic pulmonary disease and are now looking into systemic sclerosis or scleroderma and other interstitial lung diseases. All of these diseases have a high unmet need.

Successful innovations in pharma are likely to increasingly rely on partnerships and collaborations between manufacturers, suppliers, academics, and a whole range of other companies and organisations. What do you look for in these relationships, and can you give an example of one that has worked particularly well for you?

Partnering plays an increasing role for Boehringer Ingelheim as it does for all pharmaceutical companies. We have commercial partners and also have partners in all other stages of the value chain where we define mutual fields of interest, capabilities and strengths. A key point is that these partnerships must be mutually beneficial, and we continue to strive to meet this objective.

A very recent example is the development cooperation with the Danish company Gubra in the field of obesity. We also have a number of partnerships in the early science stage, eg, with Peking University on a broad range of projects in regenerative medicine and with other universities in Japan and China to find treatments for hearing loss.

Boehringer Ingelheim profile

Boehringer Ingelheim is a research-driven pharmaceutical company which focuses on innovative medicines for people and animals, and has been serving mankind for more than 130 years. Boehringer Ingelheim is one of the pharmaceutical industry’s top 20 companies and to this day remains family-owned. Day by day, some 50,000 employees create value through innovation for the three business areas human pharmaceuticals, animal health and biopharmaceutical contract manufacturing. In 2016, Boehringer Ingelheim achieved net sales of around €15.9bn. With more than €3bn invested in 2016, research and development expenditure corresponded to 19.6% of net sales.

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