Julia Korotich: Investing in high-tech pharmaceutical equipment as a guarantee of the quality and safety of medicines

A few years ago, no one could have imagined that medicine and pharmaceuticals would become one of the main areas of investment.  But new global challenges forced everyone to pay attention to these industries, if everything is clear in Ukrainian medicine and people talk about it every day, then we decided to ask specialist Julia Korotich (Sorokina) how the pharmaceutical sector is developing in this market. 

Julia works as a consultant for a multinational pharmaceutical equipment company. She is professionally engaged in the selection of equipment and after-sales support. Also, the scope of her tasks includes the organization of reference visits to pharmaceutical plants outside of Ukraine.

Julia, tell us, what is the most interesting aspect of your work?

The most important aspect of the work is, of course, people in the pharmaceutical industry, and also modern technologies for the production of medicines! When you learn about new medicines every day, about new technologies for their production, it is not only interesting but often even delightful. Well, and a huge plus of my profession — there is something new every day.

In recent years, the pharmaceutical industry has been in the group of clear leaders in terms of the dynamics of capital investment in the Ukrainian industry. And how do you assess the level of pharmacy development in Ukraine today?

I think that now we are at a very good level. But I want you to understand that in other countries the state helps the development of the industry by investing a lot of money in it, in our country, unfortunately, pharmaceutical factories are developing without proper assistance from the state. At the same time, I am very pleased that they are trying to keep the course with the rest of the world. And here I can only admire these efforts. Believe me, this is worth a lot of respect. And if despite all the difficulties that exist in our market, pharmaceutical manufacturers manage to convince foreign partners that Ukrainian pharmaceuticals are the direction in which it is worth investing, while winning in the tough competitive environment typical for the foreign pharmaceutical market, then it seems to me that we are also obliged to support our people and, when choosing medicines, give preference to Ukrainian manufacturers. I say this not as an employee of the industry, but as a simple buyer who has information about how things are in the production of medicines in Ukraine. And we, as a local consumer, should take this into account and also try to invest in our development, in high-tech equipment that meets international standards.  This guarantees the release of high-quality medicines! It costs a huge investment, but without the faith and support of the local consumer, this will not be possible.

And the fact that foreign companies are investing and buying pharmaceutical plants from us means that there is a prospect for this, believe me, otherwise they would not have invested in this market.

Often even doctors do not trust local manufacturers, giving preference to imported ones, what do you think is the reason for this?

For me, the opinion that foreign medicines are better than ours is irrelevant today. Since I have been working in this field for many years, I can say with confidence that our pharmaceutical manufacturers make every day great efforts to make medicines even better and at the same time meet international standards by introducing the requirements of the good manufacturing practice.

GMP inspectors from Ukraine and abroad often check the medicine manufacturing process.  And, of course, the presence of high-quality equipment at the plant is an important aspect for inspectors.

There is a question: «‎Why do people buy foreign medicines?», and the answer to it is very simple: people buy them because they are not informed. Information policy in this regard is also important. Well, it is very important today that factories increasingly use new high-tech equipment, because it is precisely this that helps to get rid of counterfeit goods on the market. With the help of such equipment, it is possible to use different types of tamper-evident packaging, and then the buyer can be sure that they have bought the original medicine. On each package, for example, there is a 2Dcode and the patient can check: «Where?»  and «When?» this product has been produced. This guarantees safety.  The only thing left is for the state to introduce these technologies, which have long been known to everyone, into the quality system. And I am glad that this topic is already being discussed in the Ministry of Health.

Do you think that Ukraine can compete on the international market with well-known manufacturers of medicines?

Yes, of course, and we do it very worthy! Today, Ukraine presents itself in other markets, there is an export of our medicines abroad. But we must understand an important thing — Western companies protect their market very strongly, so this is not the easiest and fastest process.

How to increase the export of medicines from Ukraine?

There are several important aspects — first of all, these are high-quality raw materials, high-tech equipment with high productivity, as this will reduce the price of the medicine and greatly help to be competitive in the international market.

Plus, marketing departments have to work on the type and form of packaging. Even medicine should look attractive.

Many countries protect their market and require local production to sell medicines. And again, exporting requires a lot of capital investment. Unfortunately, not all factories in Ukraine can afford it.  But I am glad that there are entrepreneurs who are optimistic and see an opportunity to make money in this area.

In your opinion, what medicines can be found in Ukraine that would be of interest to the whole world?

I’m working on it. Some medicines are now very relevant due to COVID-19.  These are viral medicines that can be taken as prophylaxis and medicines that help treat Covid-19. I can’t tell you more now because that’s exactly what I’m doing now. But believe me, the whole world needs these medicines, and they are available in Ukraine.

You work with more than one pharmaceutical plant, what do you think the Ukrainian pharmaceutical industry lacks to adequately be represented on the international market?

I repeat that the main thing is the lack of state support. Therefore, they have to enter the world market themselves. There are no financial lines of credit to borrow at a low-interest rate, to be able to invest in the construction of new modern factories and the development of new medicines. Factories themselves participate in world exhibitions. They invest independently to the best of their ability. While large international companies invest billions of dollars in the development of new medicines. There are scientists in Ukraine, it’s just a matter of funding.

I can’t help but ask about the current topic of COVID-19 today, did Ukraine have a chance, and most importantly, production capabilities, to produce a vaccine?

Some pharmaceutical companies have been qualified by WHO for medicines that are included in the COVID-19 treatment protocol and have made it possible to offer our and other countries to use these medicines.

But building a vaccine manufacturing plant, unfortunately, is extremely difficult for our reality today.  Since the production of vaccines is a complex biotechnological and time-consuming process, it requires specialized equipment, in which not all pharmaceutical manufacturers are willing to invest. At the moment, only one plant plans to organize its production in cooperation with a foreign partner, and soon it should appear on the market.

In Ukraine, people very often self-medicate and ask pharmacists for advice more often than doctors, many medicines can be bought without prescriptions, do you think this helps the industry develop or not?

Ukrainian medicine is now at the stage of its development, I would even say at the stage of formation. Medical reform came during the pandemic. Therefore, we are only at the beginning of the path to preventive medicine, which successfully exists throughout the world.  This is me just to the fact that self-treatment is our reality, but it needs to be abandoned. To date, public procurement has a limited list of medicines that needs to be increased so that patients do not self-medicate.This will be the first step towards the health of the nation. But it certainly won’t be a quick process.

Do you think we are moving in the right direction now? What are our prospects?

After the trials that Ukraine is now experiencing, unfortunately, inflation is inevitable.  But in the end, we are waiting for a fairly large amount of investment in the development of the pharmaceutical industry.

Following the example of Yugoslavia: after 1999 new factories appeared there, and many enterprises invested in the reconstruction and expansion of their capacities. The entire economy will be directed to the use of its own resources (own production). And our state will count on local medicine manufacturers.

The only problem that awaits us is that qualified personnel left the country, but after a while they will definitely return when they see that the country is prospering.


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