TAKING THE SWEET PILL

interview by Bozhidara Georgieva; photography by Anthony Georgieff

Teva, an international leading pharmaceutical company, is expanding in Bulgaria. GM Nikolay Hadjidontchev tells more on the company's future and why are generics important

Nikolay Hadjidontchev.jpg

Sitting in his panorama-view office at the foot of the Vitosha, Nikolay Hadjidontchev, general manager of Teva-Bulgaria, is both excited about the acquisition of Actavis, one of the country's leading pharmaceutical companies, and anxious about the merger's results. Nikolay Hadjidontchev has over 20 years in the pharmaceutical industry and on the consumer goods market. Before becoming the general manager of Teva-Bulgaria in 2011, he was the general manager of Alapis Bulgaria, Actavis Ltd, Roche Bulgaria and Unilever Bulgaria.

Why did TEVA come to Bulgaria in the first place?

In 2000, TEVA started an expansion in Europe with the acquisitions of several companies. The acquisition of German Ratiopharm in 2010 significantly increased Teva's market share in Europe. The company was building up its European presence. Its arrival in Bulgaria in 2007, via a legal entity, was a part of this process. The company needed a foothold in Bulgaria, as the country has always been an interesting, although not especially big, market for generic medicines. Initially, the company was present via its speciality product, a drug for treatment of multiple sclerosis. Later on, it added medicines for cardiovascular and central nervous systems therapeutics, along with products aimed at biometabolism and treatment of respiratory diseases and conditions. The local market grew substantially since Teva-Bulgaria's arrival. In 2015, Teva bought, for $40.5 billion, the generics business of Allergan, and here is how the Teva-Actavis merger in Bulgaria is happening in 2016. When the procedure is finalised, Teva-Bulgaria will become one of the leading pharmaceutical companies on the Bulgarian market. Adding production capabilities to the leading market position will increase significantly the importance that the future company will have for Teva in Europe.

What are the main achievements of Teva since its arrival in Bulgaria?

It is difficult to single out just a few. For me, probably these two: Teva has been a leader in the treatment of multiple sclerosis, and it successfully introduced a new product for the treatment of respiratory diseases.

How will the company's presence influence Bulgaria's healthcare?

Talking about both the present and the future, as an international leader in generic medicines, Teva offers the possibilities to balance spending for prescription and reimbursed drugs. Teva offers high quality, good value for money and lower prices, thus enabling healthcare funds and national healthcare systems to treat more patients with less money. The institutions can also invest the saved money in new innovative medicines for hard-to-treat diseases like cancer, for target and immune therapies, for biological products which are new to the market and are very expensive. If I can sum up in one sentence what Teva does for the Bulgarian healthcare system and will do for it even more after the acquisition, it is that it offers high-quality generic products, enabling the healthcare system to have higher patient access to treatment and to have healthier patients at lower cost.

Is this why generics are important in modern healthcare?

Generics are increasingly important on a global level. All over the world healthcare systems are struggling with increased spending for pharmaceuticals. Generic products save money and lower the treatment price. They help the healthcare systems to meet the challenge of treating more people for longer time. Crucially, their quality is the same as the one of patent products. It is often even better. Think about it: between the introduction of a patent drug and the expiration of its patent, which is about 20 years, the technology changes. So the generic form is often produced with more advanced technology and after refined procedure. Otherwise, the patent and the generic products are identical.

Teva GM Nikolay HadjidontchevTeva also aims to develop innovative medicines.

Teva's innovative or original products are limited to several areas. The company's number one priority is treatment of the central nervous system, specifically multiple sclerosis. The other areas of Teva's interest are the treatment of respiratory diseases and of cancer. In the past few years pharmaceutics has made a significant progress in these fields, especially in oncology. Teva also works on optimising drug absorption by the organism. The more effective it is, the better the treatment results will be. We are also looking at something that might seems like science fiction, but is in the near future: Imagine implantation of chips releasing pharmaceutical active substance into the body of the patient, thus eschewing side effects and stress. These chips can be used for treatment lasting for up to six months. This might seem now science fiction but this is where Teva is looking at the moment.

What was crucial in your decision to join Teva-Bulgaria?

Even when I was managing Actavis, a competitor, I thought about Teva as a place I would like to work. It is the largest generics producer in the world, it has a broad portfolio. And now, after more than four years with Teva, I am looking forward to the new challenges that the acquisition of Actavis will bring. It will be kind of a déjà vu for me.

What's the biggest challenge for you?

Successful integration after the deal is closed. The organisation of a new team doing its best on terms of performance, motivation, knowledge. I am happy that we have really good people working on both sides, in the two companies.

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