Created in 2012 as part of the implementation of policy guidelines approved at the Sixth Party Congress, the Biotechnology and Pharmaceutical Industry Enterprise Group (BioCubaFarma) has as its principal role the supply of medicine, equipment, diagnostics, and technology to the national public health system, and the export of goods and services.
The realization of such vital objectives is based on three fundamental pillars: scientific research, technological development, and innovation – for which the group has the highly qualified personnel that is required.
After a bit more than five years since the central enterprise management group’s emergence, its Director, Dr. Eduardo Martínez Díaz, conversed with Granma International.
What has distinguished BioCubaFarma’s work during its first five years?
First of all, work was done to integrate the two large entities that constituted the enterprise group (Quimefa and the capital’s western Scientific Pole) which functioned under different conditions in terms of regulatory standards, enterprise knowledge, and scientific-technical development.
Also established were procedures, policies, and norms for the management of the new organization’s processes, and there was strenuous work done focused on achieving greater discipline, and economic, financial and accounting culture.
BioCubaFarma inherited a previous development of more than three decades of the Cuban biotechnology and medical pharmaceutical industry sector, recognized worldwide, and over the past five years, now composed of 34 companies with more than 20,000 workers, has had successes and made mistakes. I think there have been more accomplishments, but deficiencies exist and much remains to be done.
How has the supply of medicine to the national public health system been maintained?
Between 2015 and 2017 there were recurring problems in the supply of several groups of drugs for the population, caused by internal inefficiency, among other factors, instability in the functioning of several production lines due to a lack of replacement parts and limited availability of required raw materials, as a result of financial difficulties.
Among the medications in short supply this past year were cardiovascular ones such as those for high blood pressure, angina, thrombosis, and epilepsy, as well as psychiatric drugs and analgesics.
I cannot overlook mentioning the effect of the economic blockade imposed by the United States, since several foreign companies that have been regular suppliers of raw materials stopped doing so for this reason.
In all of the situations that arose, specifically those related to financing, the highest leadership of the country took action needed to minimize the impact, in addition to continuously following up on the issue, with the participation of the Ministry of Economy and Planning, the Ministry of Public Health, and other entities involved. Also worthy of recognition is the effort made by BioCubaFarma personnel to keep factories operating.
As Fidel, the architect of this strategic, dynamic sector of Cuban science, taught us, what is essential is to seek solutions to problems that appear, avoid being surprised by them, and always have alternatives.
We began 2018 with a larger supply of raw materials than in the previous two years; replacement parts are arriving; and plants are functioning in a more stable fashion. Although prospects are encouraging, this does not imply that tensions in terms of some products may not exist, or that difficulties may not appear in acquiring certain lines.
BioCubaFarma today delivers more than a thousand products to the national public health system, of these 482 pharmaceuticals that constitute 62% of the basic medications used. During the last five years, we have been able to introduce a total of 86 new products, a list that includes several patents for our scientists that are unique in the world, with possibilities to become important exportable lines.
Research activity and innovative development contributed to our obtaining 31 new patents, already reaching more than 2,400 patents registered by the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industry in Cuba and around the world.
Several of the projects underway show very promising results in the first phase of clinical trials, in combating major causes of death in the country and internationally.
How is the investment process advancing?
The amount invested from 2013 through 2017 surpassed by 56% the figure for the sector during the previous five years. These investments increased production capacity and improved the regulatory standard of our installations, in accordance with requirements established by best manufacturing practices.
One of the most prominent projects is that involving construction of a large biotechnology complex within the Mariel Special Development Zone, conceived for a broad range of products already developed and certified, and others that are in the final phase of development.
We have planned an increase in productive capacity through 2030, with the goal of replacing imports of a number of medications. For example, the Dipirona used in hospital facilities is currently manufactured by our enterprise group, but the 84 million tablets sold in pharmacies are imported. Beyond reaching the stated goal, investments foreseen will also favor an increase in exports.
BioCubaFarma’s products currently reach more than 40 countries and we have a program to continue diversifying markets and expanding in those where we have a presence. We have the challenge before us of making a reality of what Fidel expressed, when he said that science and the products of science must someday take first place in the Cuban economy.