Merck's Leah Goodman says the 'long term' is now

BioPharmaDispatch Executive

Leah Goodman is the managing director of Merck Biopharma's business in Australia and New Zealand.

Ms Goodman was appointed in September last year having previously worked in Japan as the vice president and head of Sanofi's diabetes and cardiovascular business in the JPAC region, after several managing director roles.

She has been a strong advocate for diversity and inclusion and was recognised in 2016 with the Sanofi Global Women’s Leadership award. She is also now a leader of the Merck Women’s Leadership  Council for the APAC region, having established it this year.

"I would like to acknowledge the efforts in Australia led by Medicine Australia’s PAGE group. We were delighted to recently join this exciting initiative."

The Merck Biopharma boss returned to Australia after a decade serving in a variety of international roles. Ms Goodman said returning was a "personal and deliberate" choice that reflected an enduring commitment to her home country.

"I was so excited to be appointed to the MD role at Merck. I feel fortunate returning to what is an incredible role, with the company undergoing a significant and positive transformation on the back of new product launches."

Ms Goodman said the operating environment for the pharmaceutical sector and ultimately the impact on the lives of patients, as well as their carers and families, will always be a significant focus for her.

"This is nothing new but events are certainly presenting new opportunities we need to think about as a sector," she said, pointing to the election result, a potential change in minister or the reappointment of Greg Hunt as health minister, and the recently confirmed bipartisan political commitment to a review of the National Medicines Policy.

"I believe we need a vision, a strategic and multi-stakeholder approach to discussions about the operating environment, making a case in terms of how we think it should be, not only how we deal with the day-to-day issues we face.

“The industry faces a comprehensive review of the National Medicines Policy. This offers a gateway to potential reforms that realistically reflect the needs of patients whose timely access to new medicines is becoming increasingly subject to a cost-driven environment and is therefore under threat.

“The opportunities afforded to pharma as a keystone in the input process need to be properly considered and acted on.

“The PBS is certainly a very different proposition compared to when I last worked in Australia, with the rate of change appearing to accelerate - some of that is good and some with the potential for concern if we do not have the right approach.

"Whilst this is undoubtedly making it tougher to bring new medicines to Australian patients, I think the entire local industry remains strongly committed to this goal.

"However, as a country, we need to be realistic about our place in the global pharmaceutical industry and the impact of actions that undermine our competitiveness. When I say competitiveness, I mean as Australian subsidiaries to make the case for investment and access within our global organisations, because we are competing internally for these resources.

"It is our job as individual companies, and as a united industry, to inform and educate decision-makers and other stakeholders about this reality."

Ms Goodman supports the strategic objectives of the industry but warns against a focus on "our day-to-day challenges which risks treating the symptoms rather than the disease".

"This is true for all stakeholders, including the government. This is why a review of the National Medicines Policy seems so timely. 

"Let's use this as an opportunity to step back and consider the PBS process from first principles. I know PBAC chair Professor Andrew Wilson has made this point. I think it makes a lot of sense and is why our company welcomed Medicines Australia identifying the review as an election priority.

"We have challenges today, and we will have challenges in the second half of this year and next year - this is the reality - some challenges will be new and we may not yet even be aware of them. 

"Our opportunity is to agree an over-arching vision and strategic plan for the Australian environment, grounded in reality, and focussed on the long-term. 

"We can do this as an industry together - let's all agree on the type of reimbursement system we need as a country and then work together to make it happen," she said.