Latin America Awards 2015

May 7, 2015 - May 7, 2015, Miami

The eyeforpharma Latin America Awards recognize those in the pharmaceutical industry who are driving pharma forwards not just with higher short-term profits, but with better customer innovation, value and outcomes leading to longer-term success.

Touching Lives

Following his recent Lifetime Achievement Award, we had the pleasure of hearing more about Roch's journey and philosophy.

Roch Doliveux receives his Lifetime Achievement Award at the Barcelona Awards 2015 from Sir Michael Hirst, International Diabetes Federation

Roch Doliveux had a distinguished career with UCB as CEO for 10 years. His leadership defined UCB’s patient-centric approach, which still sets the company apart today. We celebrated his career with the Lifetime Achievement Award at the eyeforpharma Barcelona Awards, a ceremony founded to cheer on those who are working to put customer value beyond profit. 

eyeforpharma: Did you have a sense of what you wanted to achieve when you got into pharma? 

Roch: With my background as a veterinary surgeon, 'care' was always important to me. I had always loved animals but there was one species that deserved more attention.

So there was no debate as to which industry I would join after my MBA: it had to be the pharma industry. My rationale was that this was a chance to make a difference in the life of thousands of people and that was it. There was no grand vision that one day I would lead a company, it was really just that the desire to impact the lives of people and care was there from the beginning. 

eyeforpharma: Can you talk us through your journey from your first role to the CEO of UCB? 

Roch: This is, of course, a long story, but if I was to summarize, I would say that every step of the way I was doing the job as if I was going to do it for the next 10 years. I was always doing the job for the short and the long term. 

When I first started with Ciba-Geigy (now part of Novartis), I had the opportunity to become the project manager of a product that didn't yet exist. A determined pharmacologist, Dr. Schenkel, who was very patient-centric, had invented a patch to administer oestradiol through the skin; this was going to provide significant value to women going through menopause. My job was to bring this product to life in the big company's world, which was a fascinating experience. The question was: how do you develop a product that doesn’t fit with the strategic vision of the company as Ciba-Geigy had decided to move out of the hormone segment? I was gifted from the beginning with these experiences that interfaced business with R&D. 

Another experience came when I was subsequently posted in Peru, to work on tuberculosis medicines. I saw very clearly that a way to create real impact was access to care by setting up a network of treatment centers, and I worked with the government to make the project happen; a project that also required exposure to the R&D team back in Basel. After this experience, I returned to Europe, went to the US to work with Schering-Plough and then of course UCB. 

“… Patient centricity provides a sense of purpose for all of us in the industry, and when I say the healthcare industry I mean all the industry not just life sciences or biopharma. Patient centricity is not just pharma and I think it is wrong to position it in this way.”

eyeforpharma: Why is patient centricity important to you? At which point in your career did you adopt this perspective? 

Roch: The seeds were always there, but it really crystallized when I joined UCB and we acquired Celtech. It wasn’t just a Belgian company coming and buying the molecules; we were creating a company that was going to satisfy patient needs in two specific disease areas. As there was a major transformation to be done moving from a diversified chemical group moving to a highly focused biopharma, it was very important to provide a clear sense of purpose, and patient centricity provides this. 

This is important for everyone: patient centricity provides a sense of purpose for all of us in the industry, and when I say the healthcare industry I mean all the industry not just life sciences or bioPharma. Patient centricity is not just pharma and I think it is wrong to position it in this way. Every stakeholder, the payer, the patient, the provider, biopharma, Medtech and health IT aligns around this. It is very simple to me.

Since I retired from my CEO position in December, I am spending more time on this topic throughout the healthcare system. It is sad to see that apart from the Cleveland Clinic, which publishes on patient centricity, healthcare systems appear to have become anything but patient centric. The more technology comes, the more fragmentation there is, and the less patient centricity remains. Part of the problem is the misalignment of the systems. Leadership plays a big role: you see certain physicians in the US being placed in charge of ACOs, but they have no education in business so they focus on this and sometimes forget about the patient. 

Of course, it helps when your background is as a physician, but there are many physicians who aren’t patient centric. I remember many anecdotes when I exposed my Board to patient conversations about diseases. We would have the patient describing their experiences and their doctor would interrupt and "correct" them saying: "what this patient really means is …". 

For many physicians, there is clearly still this abstract notion of the patient, and the irony is that it is in a way necessary. As a physician, you cannot become too emotional about patients, you need to protect yourself as a human being, and that's what abstraction does. 

eyeforpharma: What would you say defined your leadership at UCB? What are your proudest moments? 

Roch: The defining moments are people-related. In the interview with your Chairman, Paul Simms at eyeforpharma Barcelona, Paul asked me what was the happiest moment that I had as a leader at UCB. Clearly, it was handing over to my successor. There is nothing better than that when the company thrives. 

Another was the whole dimension of building the leadership team and the executive team as a whole, which requires a lot of effort. When they joined, it was an act of faith and trust. Fortunately, it is easier to join UCB now than it was then. At every executive meeting, we were systematically working on the people dimension to maximize each person's potential and the team.

eyeforpharma: What other difficulties or challenges did you face?

Roch: In 2008 and 2009, we had delays in the approval of our new products, and these delays added to the crisis of our patent expiries, as we lost 1.3 billion € of EBIT in 4 years from an EBIT base of 450 million € when I joined.

I had doubts of course but doubts are a source of progress. You question yourself, are the fundamentals correct?”

eyeforpharma: During that time did you have any doubts that a patient centric approach was the right tack?

Roch: I had doubts of course but doubts are a source of progress. You question yourself, are the fundamentals correct? Is patient centricity 'nice to have' or a 'must have'? Can we really have the impact that we want? Is there anything in the delayed molecules that would prevent them from coming to market? 

I had the luxury of a good board and solid shareholders and it would not have been possible without their support. This is a key success factor for any CEO; do your board and your shareholders support you? This requires people time, even with the shareholders.

The Acid Test for Patient Centricity is: which opportunities have you left on the table? I can think of several at UCB where we walked away from an opportunity because it wasn’t patient centric.”

eyeforpharma: As everyone adopts patient centric language into their marketing statements and 'ethos' how can people distinguish between those living their values, and those just projecting without meaning? Are you worried that the actions of some could erode this value for others? 

Roch: At the end of the day it is not what you say, it is what you do. It is your behavior and the behavior of the company that make the difference. When you set patient centricy as the goal, trusting that shareholder value will follow patient value, it is a high mark. You have to be prepared to walk away from opportunities and bottom line, if they are not patient centric. For example, I can think of several times at UCB where we did not pursue a licensing opportunity because the pricing targets from the partner were too high to sustain patient value. It is not about the highest price possible, it is about the highest value possible, price being just one component. 

Those who think about patient centricity as a marketing statement may have some impact if they are very good at communicating it, but the likelihood of making a long lasting impact is not high. Those that test every single decision, ensuring that the culture of the company (and it takes 10 years to build a culture) and their collective behaviors reflects the patient centric values, will make it. The Acid Test for Patient Centricity is: which profitable opportunities have you left on the table because they were not patient centric? I can think of several at UCB where we walked away from an opportunity because it wasn’t patient centric. 

This is a process that requires time: anyone who tries to do this must know that it takes time; it isn’t just a short-term plan, they also have to make a mid- to long-term plan.

Some may say, but my CEO is not that patient centric and I don’t want to work for this company, well the first reaction is: yes, you are right, come and work for UCB! Another option is doing something about it. This is what I have always felt: you can be patient centric in your area of responsibility. In my time in Peru, no one asked me to do these tuberculosis treatment centers, it would never be taken into my performance assessment, and yet I knew it would create impact. 

You always have an opportunity to make a difference. It is obviously much easier if your company promotes an active patient centric dialogue – but there is always a way. 

eyeforpharma: What about the ability of the patient to interpret? How can they distinguish from those living their values and those projecting? 

Roch: We can make a difference when we focus: companies like UCB, Novo or Genzyme focus on a specific disease area and become recognized by the patients. In this instance, you are not talking about millions, but thousands or hundreds of thousands of patients, and with a community this size, they will recognize your behaviors and values - you will stand out.

eyeforpharma: What are the key challenges facing the industry?

Roch: Never has the industry been in a more exciting time; I look at what is going on with PCSK9, the cholesterol inhibitor or the sclerostin antibody with UCB and Amgen and it is incredible. For the first time we are able to understand the pathway of genetic defects in populations and how to correct it.

When you think about what is going on with immune oncology, science is so rich that we really have the technology to change the course of so many disorders now. The key challenge for the industry is to harness the power of these technologies and science to make medicines in an open environment, and to do it in a way that genuinely delivers value to patients. 

The challenge of the pressure on costs is not going away. Biosimilars are going to come: it is 100% predictable; the pace may be different but it will be there. 

Talent and leadership continues to be a challenge for every company. For example, the interface between business and science is absolutely core. Every new head of R&D comes in with: how am I going to reduce attrition and increase success?  Well guess what, there are publications on these topics but they are not being taught. Much more needs to be done to improve the leadership development/education and to stimulate communication between business and science, business and medical. 

It will be interesting to see what happens as the information technology industry enters the picture. Google is quite customer centric, so it is may not be that surprising that they are now getting involved. We don’t talk about Calico within the industry, but this may not be so wise. We should remember that the previous head of Genentech is now running Calico and I am sure they are thinking about the same topics.

eyeforpharma: Will patient centricity still be the trend in 10 years?

Roch: I don't like the word trend; patient centricity is not a trend: it is a sense of purpose; it is why we do what we do. George Merck talked about patient centricity in 1950. It is a deep fundamental that companies have to live by, not just a statement. The journey is long and 10 years from now, the people will still be talking about how to deliver value to the patient. In 10 years time, those people who think today of patient centricity as trends and marketing messages will be out, I can guarantee it.

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Latin America Awards 2015

May 7, 2015 - May 7, 2015, Miami

The eyeforpharma Latin America Awards recognize those in the pharmaceutical industry who are driving pharma forwards not just with higher short-term profits, but with better customer innovation, value and outcomes leading to longer-term success.