Can you introduce Farmindustria’s role to our international audience, and what are Farmindustria’s most recent achievements?
Farmindustria is a member of Confindustria, Italy’s main association of manufacturing and service companies. It is also a member of the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA) and the International Federation (IFPMA). We have around 200 member companies, both national and foreign-owned. Our Association endeavors to create a stable regulatory environment and a pharmaceutical policy that recognizes the key role of our industry in the growth of the country’s life sciences. Among our recent achievements, I would mention the close cooperation with our institutions, in areas such as the pandemic, where we have been able to assure continuity of all therapies for patients; spending ceilings, which will now be tied to actual expenditure trends; R&D tax credits; and the implementation of decentralized clinical trials, where we are conducting an in-depth study with the Italian Institute of Health.
How can Italy maintain its leadership as a European pharma hub?
Pharmaceuticals are one of Italy’s specialties, as shown by the country's positive trade balance of over €4 billion in 2020, despite fierce international competition. Thanks to constant investments, our sector has increased its value add in relation to turnover and employees, as well as the average value of exports. We are internationally recognized for our high standards of safety and quality, coming from a long-standing industrial tradition. We want to keep creating innovative products (e.g., biotechnological medicines, vaccines, plasma-derived products, advanced therapies) as well as medicines with consolidated use that are key to the quality of patient care. Let us not forget contract development and manufacturing, where Italy is a European leader, and also the equipment manufacturing production chains.
How can market access for innovative drugs be facilitated in Italy’s regulatory context?
It is crucial that the country invests more in pharma with respect to its growing demand for healthcare. The savings made in other health services thanks to medicines could be used to finance pharmaceutical spending. We need a new model, one no longer simply focused on containing costs, but oriented towards access to all available therapies.
How do you think the pandemic shifted attitudes towards healthcare and the life sciences industry?
We have learned that health is wealth, freedom, work, and equality. Without health and investments in the life sciences there will be neither a future, nor social development. Public and private systems need to create a network where skills, planning, rules, and decision-making processes coalesce to attract investments. Public health policies must be coordinated with industrial policy.
How does Farmindustria encourage youth training and development through initiatives like Alternanza Scuola Lavoro or Higher Technical Institutes?
We realized that it is urgent to prepare our youth for their future careers by equipping them with the right skills. That helps us tackle the problem of school drop-out and the complex phenomenon of NEETs [not in employment, education or training].
Alternanza Scuola Lavoro is a three-year project involving high school students, realized through a strong partnership with the Ministry of Education, territorial associations, and unions. Students are guided by our member companies and they are provided guidance on the continuation of their studies, as well as workforce entry. The program has reached hundreds of students so far and we are now extending its reach to cover all of Italy.
As for HTL (ITS), issues like skills mismatch led us to develop a program where we could facilitate the development of new skills required to meet the needs of digital transformation, and thus fill hard-to-find professional roles that our industry requires to continue its growth. These are 2000-hour courses, of which 900 is on the job, where teachers are 90% company experts.
How is the Italian pharma sector positioned to address the 2030 Sustainability goals?
Our companies offer one of the most advanced and comprehensive corporate welfare programs for an optimum work-life balance (e. g. assistance to non-self-sufficient family members; educational, social and health assistance services; collective transport; company canteens), plus programs that help employees acquire multi-disciplinary skills. Women are especially valued, representing 43% of pharmaceutical employees, well above the national average (29%). Moreover, women account for 42% of our executive and middle management roles and 52% of R&D jobs.
The link between health and the environment led our industry to adopt the UN 2030 Sustainable Development Goals and create, in 2015, the Eco-Pharmaco-Stewardship (EPS), a European program to manage medicines’ environmental impact. Pharmaceutical companies are committed to improving the entire life cycle of medicines by undertaking major technology investments to curtail their environmental impact (47% of all eco-investments, against 31% of the Italian industrial average). Thanks to a centralized system for disposing of expired or unsold medicines (Assinde) our companies have, for 40 years, continuously improved the management of returned products. This commitment has made it possible to reduce energy and water consumption and climate-altering emissions and to reduce the use of plastics while increasing the recovery and recycling of packaging materials.