Teva’s Kim Innes on shaping the post-COVID future with the NHS
Like all UK pharma GMs working during the COVID-19 pandemic, Teva’s Kim Innes has found herself leading her company through an unprecedented crisis in one of the worst-hit countries in the world.
Nevertheless, Innes is positive about the enormous efforts the entire industry has undertaken to combat the disease and is hopeful that the ‘new normal’ after the pandemic will present exciting opportunities to work more closely with the NHS on shaping the entire industry.
Innes says that Teva recognised early on that the company had a responsibility to make sure they kept medicines moving and into the hands of the patients that need them.
“At one stage, we were shipping record amounts of products to customers and wholesalers from our distribution centre, and redistributed some of our office staff to the warehouse floor to make sure we could deliver on our commitment during this unprecedented time.”
Whilst it’s probably too soon to fully understand the long-term impact COVID-19 will have on the industry, Innes says that even in times of crisis like these there are opportunities for industry and government to learn how to shape the future.
“I think the government has noted the whole pharma industry really stepping up to develop solutions and support the country during the pandemic.
“We have an opportunity to start new conversations with government and healthcare stakeholders about how we can continue to collaborate and work together. This has been a global crisis and international companies like Teva can bring a fresh perspective and new solutions to help strengthen the UK’s supply chain.”
She adds that she hopes the company, as the largest supplier of medicines to the NHS, will have “an important role to play” to help prepare for a possible surge in demand post-COVID.
“I want to see us develop those connections and act as a true partner for the NHS and the government. By working together, and really listening to clinicians and patients, we can do far more for patients in the UK than we could ever do alone.”
The landscape for generics
But COVID-19 is just one pressure affecting the industry, and aside from the coronavirus pandemic, Innes says that the biggest change she has seen over the past few years has been the squeeze on the generics industry – with consolidation, new entries to the market from different manufacturers, and increased price competition.
“The prices of generics in the UK are generally lower than other European markets, and provide significant savings to the NHS. This is great and something I really support, but we really need to make sure the industry remains sustainable – only then can you guarantee a stable supply of a wide range of medicines and products.
“I think we’ve seen over the last couple of years that the generics industry as a whole has stepped up and rightfully earned a seat at the table in discussions with the NHS and government about medicines policy.”
She says she hopes that Teva’s broad portfolio, which includes a blend of generic, biosimilars, over-the-counter and branded medicines, gives the company “a distinctive perspective on the role we can play in the life sciences space and allows us to do things a little bit differently”.
Looking to the future of the industry as a whole, Innes notes that pharma has gone beyond the simple world of generic and branded medicines.
“Today we have complex generics and biosimilars on the market and some exciting developments in the pipeline. The needs of patients are also becoming more complicated, as are our treatments, and how they are commissioned needs to reflect that.”
She says that in a lot of ways, the value that these complex and innovative treatments bring is still not appreciated.
“I’d like to see the UK market recognise this, and innovate and evolve in partnership with industry rather than in response to it.
“We’re getting there, but it’s a slow process and can mean that it takes time for patients to be able to access certain medications and therapies that really could transform their lives.”
She also stresses the importance of patient centricity to the company’s plans going forward.
“I think the industry talks a lot about patient centricity – and rightly so – but it’s easy to talk about and much harder to get right!
“Our idea of patient centricity needs to be inclusive of all patients, regardless of their age, sex or ethnicity. Take our new migraine therapy as an example. Migraine is not normally seen as an urgent medical issue, but migraines are three times more likely to affect women than men, and women normally suffer more severely. Our new treatment was recently recommended by NICE, and one of the key factors in that decision was the really strong voice that patients had throughout the process in standing up and talking about the burden of the condition, and the need for additional treatment options.
“Listening to a wide range of patient voices, especially those who do not always feel included, allows us to identify areas of unmet need and understand how we can help address them.”
About the interviewee
Kim Innes is general manager of Teva UK and Ireland. Prior to that she served as chief operating officer for the UK, where she played a leading role in supporting Teva’s global commercial integration planning. Innes joined Teva in 1991 and has undertaken a wide range of commercial and leadership roles in her almost 30-year career with the company. She previously led Teva’s UK generics business and also served as chair of the British Generic Manufacturers’ Association.