Innovation is Esteve Pharma's calling. Ever since its foundation in 1929, intense research, a vocation for international expansion, and active policies of strategic alliances with other companies have all consolidated a leading corporate group in the field of health. Managing Director Joe Sullivan was interviewed to gain a better insight.

In what therapeutic areas does Esteve carry out its activities?

Esteve has traditionally been involved in Primary Care, but historically has also addressed specialized areas in which we want to strengthen our presence. While we shall continue to work actively in Primary Care, our efforts are now focused on fields such as (mainly neuropathic and post-operative) pain, Oncology, Central Nervous System, and Diabetes. Regarding the latter, Esteve has an excellent portfolio of products, and a joint venture known as Balance Labs has been formed with Calidad Pascual to manufacture and market food products for diabetic patients.

What products are to be launched next by your company?

An alliance with the Japanese company Eisai was recently established in the field of epilepsy with the product Zonegran. In the field of OTC products, the in-house laxative Laxadina has just been launched. Finally, other alliances in the above areas, which I cannot disclose yet, will be announced in the coming months.

Please tell us briefly about the new commercial model recently implemented by Esteve.

This can be addressed in two different ways: products and territories. The product model is structured in three business areas: one, emerging products requiring intense promotional activity, with patents still in force; two, well-established products with past due patents; and three, OTC products. Regarding the territorial model, we are aware of the particularities of each Autonomous Community in Spain, and we thus structure each area according to the particular characteristics of each Community, be it in connection with marketing, sales, institutional relations or medical departments, so that the needs of each territorial area are met almost on a custom-made basis. Also importantly, the new commercial business gives careful consideration to how the different stakeholders should be addressed to make each relationship as profitable as possible. This approach is the company's clear commitment to put patients and clients at the center of the business.

We assume that Esteve has also been forced to remodel its sales networks on account of the present economic situation…

Indeed, Esteve has been affected by the current market situation and, like many other pharma companies, has been compelled to downsize part of its marketing networks and other areas of the entire group over the past five years.

What does multi-channel marketing mean to a company like Esteve?

We at Esteve believe that multi-channel marketing brings excellent opportunities. As I said before, multi-channel marketing ―understood as going beyond online or 2.0 channels― must be structured around the patient by putting the patient at the center of each and every purpose. This is how we try to ensure that all stakeholders ―physicians, pharmacists, the Administration, wholesalers― are approached and involved in this reality: the patient is at the center of each and every purpose. Involving stakeholders is the way not to forget that, even if we cannot address the patient directly, the patient is our ultimate goal and must be offered the best possible quality of life.

What is your opinion about the present situation of the pharmaceutical sector in Spain?

While it is true that other countries are also experiencing problems, the situation is more marked in Spain. Indeed, the pharmaceutical market has changed a lot in the past few years and is presently surrounded by uncertainty. We at Esteve are especially mindful of the need to address these changes and to gradually modify our strategies in line with market-induced changes.

As for the future, the IMS has presented data that also fail to show significant changes in the present situation, with data very similar to those found in our sector around 2004. We all share a concern for the sustainability of the healthcare system, and our objective as a sector and as a company is to establish ourselves as partners of the Administration to ensure this sustainability.

Born in Boston to an Irish family, Joe Sullivan arrived in Spain in the year 1989, introduced by a Madrid-born woman who is now his wife. Ever since he arrived, Joe has been involved in different areas of the health sector: medical devices, pharma, and health services in companies such as Alcon, AstraZeneca, or Baxter. He joined Esteve two years ago, and was appointed Managing Director of its pharmaceutical business.

Regarding sustainability, do you think therapeutic innovation will continue to be funded in the future?

I think we must all contribute to make it possible, starting with the companies themselves ―we must be able to make good innovation proposals to the Administration. I should like to emphasize the importance of ensuring the Administration's ability (by way of organizational structure, objectives, etc.) to assess innovation proposals made by the industry. What I mean is that, for instance, requesting pharmacoeconomic reports is not enough; rather, the Administration must be able to assess these reports properly.

What is Esteve's role at the international level? How important is internationalization to your company?

We at the Group have a clear vocation for the international market, particularly in the generics area ―which was directly born to be global. Likewise, the chemical area went international many years ago. We now face the challenge of the pharma area internationalization, and we are evaluating and exploring international opportunities for in-house products. We also firmly believe that our R&D of future products will be the lever required to achieve high international activity in the coming years, all the more if we consider that R&D has always been one of Esteve's strengths… Indeed, since the very beginning and justifiably so, innovation has been the backbone of Esteve's growth and expansion. For the past 5-6 years we've been focusing our efforts even more on first-in-class products, which we believe will be very successful in the short term, particularly in the area of pain.

Finally, given your North American roots, which healthcare system do you prefer, the European system or the North American system?

Each system has obviously its particularities and benefits, but what I can say in this sense is that Spain has an extraordinary healthcare system in its very roots, and accordingly all the actors involved ―from citizens to the industry― must ensure its sustainability. Because each system has its pros and cons, only time will tell which of the two was more successful. As a citizen, however, I prefer the European universal system.


Overall sales: 810 (30% Pharma, 35% Generics, 26% Chemical, 9% JV).
International sales: 470 (58%).
R&D: 65
Total workforce: 2,304
R&D workforce: 278 (12%).