Q: What is the company's long-term plan for this area of business?
A:To continue to grow and support the wider business. There is an ever growing number of patients for these products in respiratory, anti-infectives, urology, dermatology… it’s a very broad portfolio. We seek life-cycle changes and development changes to be able to continue to grow the unit and we are still innovators in this area. However we also have to align this with being able to keep prices low enough to compete.
Q: Does GSK do anything different in this area compared to its competitors?
A:We have done a lot over the last few years to build up our internal capabilities and to find ways to engage with physicians and healthcare professionals in a much more coordinated way. Most of the content globally to support these brands comes out of Mumbai and we engage with thousands of physicians through digital platforms.
We have also built-up a cross functional team – for medical, regulatory, supply chain and quality – who really support these brands. It's almost a unique organization within GSK that allows the business to focus on its core assets but allows us to also grow and treat more patients and drive a strong return.
Q: How did you get into this particular position?
A:I was approached by GSK while working in Singapore for a large, international generics company – I was running their emerging markets business – to look at heading up their mature business and branded generics. GSK was always a company I had admired, the timing was right and colleagues from past positions that I thought very highly of were also now working at GSK. The position also allows me to stay in Asia, which was something I was very keen to do.
Q: What are your own long term aspirations?
A:Right now, GSK is a very big, exciting business and the more we look at this mature products space the more opportunities we see. The scope and breadth of what we support has continued to grow. GSK has recently changed the way it engages with healthcare practitioners (HCPs) to bring in digital aspects and to find innovative ways to work with markets and prescribers – so this is an exciting time for GSK and me in my current role. For the first time the industry has realized it is not just about your ability to have a sales force – it's about having the right connectivity. The next few years for classic and established products will be a very interesting period.
Q: If you were starting over what's the best bit of advice you would give to your younger self?
A:Take more risks earlier on. I wish I had worked overseas sooner in my career. It's always easy at the time to rationalize not taking some opportunities, whether it's personal or career reasons, but really it’s the calculated risks that you take that open up the best opportunities.
Q: If you weren't a pharma executive, what would you be?
A: I would like to be an entrepreneur: if I have a regret it is not setting up my own company and running my own business.
Q: What has been your proudest moment?
A:My career has been a story of two halves: the first half I spent challenging patents and launching generics against innovator companies like GSK; the second half has seen me as poacher turned to game keeper I suppose, as I grow some of those off-patent brands. For me some of that growth, particularly in emerging markets, has been incredible. Patients are at the heart of this industry and we are managing now to treat more patients than ever. The fact that we can take products that are 35-40 years old and see them become number one products in places like India, which has traditionally been seen as the most aggressively generic market in the world, I think that is incredible. So I'm very proud of that.
Q: And what about your most difficult moment?
A: The toughest moment was when I was CEO of a company in the UK and I had to close one of the manufacturing sites. At the time I was in my early thirties, having to sit down with a few hundred people and tell them they didn’t have a job anymore was incredibly difficult. While there was a commercial rationale, the human consequence was hard.
Q: What was the last thing you changed your mind about in a business decision?
A: I suppose it would be around a couple of products that traditionally we wouldn’t have supported. I came to GSK to expand the branded generics business and initially that plan wasn’t successful. However, we did see opportunity for some of the brands we already owned; with a little bit of resource you can get phenomenal results. GSK now has the capability to manage mature assets in a different way to some of its competitors and this capability has now become an integral part of GSK’s business.
Q: What current trend in your field would you highlight as the most exciting and why?
A: Mature products are growing – maybe not as much in the US – but they are not all declining, particularly in areas like Eastern Europe and the emerging markets.
Q: Tell us one myth about the industry that you'd like to set straight.
A: Ultimately the industry does a lot more good than it is credited for. It’s a business and we make money out of people being sick and that is emotionally challenging – but GSK tries very hard to do the right thing and treat patients in the right way. We as a company try to find that balance between being a business and doing the right thing for our patients. The industry doesn’t get great press, for example all the concerns right now around price gouging, but GSK wants to grow its business by treating more patients, not by treating fewer patients at a higher price.