Interviewed By Hakim Almasmari
-Yemen Post HA: To begin, please explain what the basics of the Access to Medicine (ATM) project and how will it help Yemen?
Omar Mulhi: Access to medicine is a major project that international pharmaceutical companies launched; aiming that top quality medicine reaches more levels within Yemen society and making needed medicine accessible to a wide range of Yemeni patients irrespective to their income and area.
It’s a mission to help ensure that good medicine reaches the not so rich with only a faction of the medicines original costs. This system is mostly for development countries like Yemen. GSK ranked first worldwide among the 20 top pharmaceutical companies in the world on the Access to Medicine index for helping those in need worldwide. Ordinary Yemenis will save a lot of dollars in medicine costs very soon.
-This comes to my next question, what is the ATM index?
It is an initiative that was founded by the access to medicine foundation, which is an international non-profit organization that seeks on easing the reach of medicine to the not so rich through selling the medicine for a cheaper price to developing countries.
The index was introduced in 2008 and then in 2010, and the last one just last months.
We are proud to rank first in all three of the ATM indexes.
-Can you explain how Yemen is benefiting from this?
Yemen is currently not benefiting from this yet, though it was supposed to starting months back. The delay is mostly due to the internal political crises the country was passing through and that is why we were forced to delay this.
The good news is that Yemen will start benefiting from this in the early months of 2013. This means we will sell our products for a much lower price to the Yemeni market.
Soon we will announce the decrease of our medicine prices and the price reduction will start with the products most used by Yemenis.
-So Yemenis are currently paying full cost of medicine and major pharmaceutical companies are not giving back to society?
Not really. We at GSK have been helping ordinary Yemenis over the years in different ways. As an example, our current strategy at GSK is to give 20 percent of all our profits in Yemen back to society and this started in 2010. Regarding our current prices, they are very competitive in the same level of other multinational companies or even lower.
-Can you give me examples on this type of social work in Yemen?
They are numerous. We are currently working in partnership with Save the Children organization to help of Yemeni families.
Those activities include training sessions we contributed for Yemeni mid wives in rural areas to raise their awareness in areas that concerns them including the harms and causes of child malnutrition. These sessions were conducted in the provinces of Amran and Lahj among others. Some of those activities were attended by our colleagues Adnan Salem and Saleh Ali from GSK side and by many of key official leaders in the government.
-This is all great, but isn›t more expected given that Yemen is a very poor nation?
There is more, we will support Yemen through the WHO with a donation of around 10,000,000 doses of Albendazole, the first lot of which is arriving this month. This project will continue until September of 2013 and the doses are used to treat Soil Transmitted Helminths. This is a type of worm that infects the patient by living in the alimentary system of the sick, and unfortunately this sickness is widespread in Yemen.
We have the intention to invest more in Yemen and our mentality has always been to support society and reach a point where we are seen as a health partner rather than a pharmaceutical business company.
-Impressive. Can we expect to see an increase in your social activities over the next couple of years?
One thing for sure is that the prices of our medicines will decrease starting very early next year.
We are also committed to continue giving 20 percent of our profits from the Yemen operation back to society. We are expecting our sales to increase in 2013 and beyond, and this ensures me give more to Yemen and its people.
-My last question, how much of reduction in prices should Yemenis expect to see starting February?
The public will easily notice the reduction in our prices and the wait for this will not be long. GSK medical products will be more affordable to a wide range of Yemeni patients. This ensures that needed medical products reach more areas throughout the country. Patients will soon get high quality medicine for a reasonable price.
About the interviewee:
Omar Mulhi worked with GSK since 1995. He started his career as a medical representative and was promoted to a number of progressively senior positions in the organisation with the last role being Second Line Sales Manager in 2010. Omar took the role of GSK Country Manager effective from June 2012 looking after both institutional and private business in Yemen.