Welcome to RARE a blog dedicated to the rare disease industry by Laura Hulley, a Recruitment Consultant at SciPro.
RARE - Sergio López Llobregat
In this instalment of RARE, I welcomed Sergio López Llobregat. Sergio, at the time of the interview, worked as the National Sales Manager for the Rare Haematology Business Unit within Takeda in Spain. Here he talks us through his journey within the rare disease space, the challenges faced at the moment and the impact of covid-19 on interactions within the commercial arena.
Can you tell us a bit about your journey within the pharma industry and how you came to be National Sales Manager at Takeda?
I started as a Sales Rep in Eli Lilly, a great company with one of the best sales training departments in the Pharma landscape. After some years in Lilly, I had the opportunity to switch into the rare diseases field, thanks to Shire. I worked as a Key Account Manager in the Rare Metabolic Diseases Business Unit, where I learnt the key points of the Rare Diseases therapeutic area. I realized then that one of the best things we can do to serve patients is to raise awareness and to spread knowledge on Rare Diseases to increase proper diagnosis. A few years later, I had the opportunity to join the Rare Haematology BU to support patients with bleeding disorders, first as Product Manager and after, leading the Sales Team.
How did you find the transition into the rare disease space? How much did it differ from primary care?
When you work in Primary Care, healthcare professionals see daily patients with more prevalent diseases such as diabetes or respiratory problems. However, in Rare Diseases, patients are less common in the examination room, and they are much most difficult to identify. In Fabry Disease for example the diagnosis can take more than ten years in some cases, due to a lack of awareness making it difficult to identify its symptoms. In Primary Care, you are mainly focused on physicians knowing your product but in Rare Diseases, one must achieve great expertise in the disease and spread your knowledge to contribute to accurate and quick diagnostics.
You now specialise in rare haematology, haemophilia in particular – what did you learn when you entered this space?
The first thing was the importance of understanding the patient journey in this disease space and the history of the therapeutic area. Patients with bleeding disorders had many problems and suffered difficult situations in the past. Fortunately, nowadays they are living a therapeutic revolution that brings them plenty of opportunities to treat their disease due to the appearance of bispecific monoclonal antibodies and Extended Half-Life (EHLs) treatments and, in the near future, Gene Therapy. When you really want to help people, you must understand where they come from and their future ahead.
What are the barriers to access for patients with haemophilia at the moment?
Thanks to the wide range of therapies available nowadays in the market together with the consistency of Real-World Evidence data and the promising near future of advanced therapies, such as gene therapy for the treatment of haemophilia, I feel that access to treatment for haemophilia patients is moving into a ‘golden age’, although availability does not always mean granted access for all. Therefore, maybe the next step must be a focus on ‘equal access’. Patient advocates have historically been very proactive among the haemophilia patient community and thanks to the great work done by the Spanish Federation of Haemophilia (FEDHEMO) in our country people have access to all available treatment options which is great news not only for Spain but also for other countries which follow its trail.
How has COVID-19 impacted your role as Sales Manager?
In several ways, but the most important is the way in which we interact with physicians. We suddenly had to change our face-to-face interactions to a totally remote model first, and gradually to a hybrid model. We had to quickly adapt and acquire new skills to offer quality virtual interactions while building an omnichannel engagement model reinventing a very well-established way of working and adapting everything to our new reality.
Do you feel like this will have an impact moving forward on the way you will expect your team to interact with stakeholders?
Definitely. The way we used to work will never come back. We must be ready to understand and support the new needs of healthcare professionals. Which channel they know, use or prefer to communicate, learn and interact. Which tools can we provide them? It’s time we make a big effort to understand them as never before and to partner with them.
To counter the difficulties or challenges of the face-to-face meetings, we must improve our skills to offer effective virtual interactions and raise scientific dialogue increasing the value of the information we share with Healthcare Professionals. In Pharma, professionals have to be profiled with a higher scientific approach each time.
I would like to thank Sergio for taking the time to feature on RARE and giving us an insight into his journey within the rare disease space – Thanks Sergio!
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