Betting on innovation

pharmaceutical industry in Paraguay

Oscar Harrison & Justo Ferreira, President & General Manager of Quimfa/Grupo Harrison, respectively, share their thoughts on the pharmaceutical industry and medical care in Paraguay




Leading Edge (LE) : What prompted the launch of the QUIMFA Group?
Oscar Harrison (OH): Química Farmacéutica S. A. used to be one company, covering imported products and national production. However, we realised that it would be more convenient for us to separate local production from imports. That was how Quimfa as a laboratory was created, and today, it has grown by 150% as a result of the separation. The factory was opened in 2010; the separation took place in 2013; and we launched the company as Quimfa in 2014.

LE: What is your definition of innovation?
Justo Ferreira (JF): In reality, for us, the word has two connotations: the first is that we are an organisation that puts our trust in the intellectual power we have available to us, which means that working as a team, with the structure that we use, is very important. However, first we have to be innovative in motivating people in terms of what we want to do. Staff should all have their own goals, and find the path that leads us all to the company’s goals. All of this is part of human resources. The other definition is to introduce and innovate services on an everyday basis. This is a very competitive market in which today’s players are focused on making generic drugs, whereas we make brand-name drugs known for reliability and effectiveness. That gives us our own niche in the market. It’s not just a question of how much it costs, people will pay the price for a drug they trust, because the issue is their health.

LE: Please describe the basic lines of the factory operation to us. Tell us about product lines, production statistics, distribution, and so on.

JF: Like all factories in Paraguay, ours is a small factory. It’s a very small market, and because of that, it’s a multi-use plant. That means we have solid and liquid oral tablet production lines, cream production lines, and two years ago we incorporated an injectables line, which is one of the most modern in South America, and which has enabled us to gain a leading position in a very important market: the treatment of patients who are more seriously ill. We are able to be involved in initial treatment in hospitals, and then to continue with our brand in different oral forms, whether in tablets or gel capsules, or in the form of liquid for children.

LE: What do you think of the current state of public health care?

OH: Social security has been a requirement in the country for many years, and covers all employees. This has brought a series of difficulties, as the increase in people taking out insurance was not accompanied by a growth in infrastructure. The previous government was known for its enormous investment in public health care after many years of underfunding. Today, the Ministry of Health is established as the main service provider to the population, including mandatory social security, services and coverage for medication. It was an innovation implemented by the previous government, and the current government has emphasised the measure even further. After many years, medical attention in the country has improved significantly. And most importantly, patients get free care.

LE: What were most recent investments in technology?

OH: The investment made in the Quimfa factory was very unusual for our market at the time. It consisted of an investment totalling US$30 million made between 2005 and 2010. The total market size at that time was US$ 250 million. While it might have looked like the company’s investments would be impossible to recover, today the total market size is US$ 450 million. We hold 9% of the national market share and also supply a great deal to foreign markets. Next week, in the same category the group will be launching a totally innovative initiative in the country, namely Paraguay’s first cyclotron, which is a device for producing atomised vials of magnesium and fluorine for PET scans. It is the first, and I don’t think there will be another, as the market won’t have room.