The Business Year

Dr. Yerzhan Mufilov

KAZAKHSTAN - Health & Education

The Pill to Succeed

Area General Manager, Kazakhstan, Central Asia & Mongolia, GSK


Dr. Yerzhan Mufilov graduated from Karaganda State Medical Academy in 1995 and is a qualified surgeon. In 2008 he received a degree in medical sciences in children’s oral and maxillofacial surgery, and in 2010 he received an International Executive MBA degree from the International Academy of Business/HEC Business School, Paris. Before joining GSK in 2009 as Regional Director General for Central Asia and Kazakhstan, he worked at Bayer Schering Pharma in Kazakhstan, where he held the position of Business Unit Manager in three divisions: specialized medicine, general medicine, and diagnostics.

"We are investing notably in oncology and in new diagnostic systems."

Driven by a growing middle class and by an increasingly sophisticated medical system, the Kazakhstani pharmaceutical market is steadily developing. What opportunities do you see for GSK? What key factors are contributing to cementing your presence in the Country?

Kazakhstan has the most stable political and investment climate in the region. Around 4% of the country’s GDP is spent on healthcare and there is a growing pace of state investment in the healthcare sector. The overall vision for the health system is reflected in the State Health Care Development Program for 2011—2015 and the Strategic development plan of the Republic of Kazakhstan until 2020. One of the targets of the development program for 2020 is to raise life expectancy at birth from 62-63 to 73; this is a good target and could be achieved given certain special healthcare reforms, which should concentrate on the prophylaxis of disease, which includes immunization of the population. In that regard, we play a significant role: GSK’s vaccines are represented in the Kazakhstani national reimbursement system and the national immunization calendar. This target can be achieved through medical education, one of the pillars of the healthcare system development. At GSK we are committed to investing in education. In 2012 we signed an MoU with the Ministry of Health in Kazakhstan. We are investing in two programs, namely oncology and immunization. This is where GSK has expertise and we can bring our expertise into this area. It is not just about pharmacy or profit for us; it is all about patients. We have introduced the patient-focused program, where we put patient’s interests at the heart of decisions made. Kazakhstan is also a member of the Eurasian Economic Union, under which the regulations of three member countries aim to be harmonized. It is expected that marketing authorizations for medical products will be mutually recognized among member countries. This could speed up the process of registration of medical products and might influence the reduction of registration costs and timelines if implemented correctly. Kazakhstan is playing a major advisory role in implementing new regulations; the regulations are interactively discussed and we provide our feedback, which is considered and accepted. Of course the Belorussian and the Russian experts also play major role in harmonizing these regulations. Another factor that positively drives the healthcare system is Kazakhstan’s importing of international experience.

GSK’s educational programs are used in the medical education of physicians in many countries worldwide. In this regard, can you elaborate on your partnership with Kazakhstani institutions to develop local healthcare systems?

We are investing notably in oncology and in new diagnostic systems. Advanced diagnostics enable the patient to receive the right treatment, and we invest in education related to diagnostics; doctors are dealing with highly innovative medicines that require special skills. We are working with the European School of Oncology to bring knowledge and know-how to the country, giving more free time to doctors. While nurses are spending more time in technical procedures, the doctors can focus on formulating the right diagnostics, analysis, and treatment. Most of our products, like antiretrovirals, oncological products, and vaccines, are part of the reimbursement system in Kazakhstan. Our priority is to bring in more expertise in the area. Our partnership is more with the institutions and the Ministry of Health, which we are discussing on open platforms. One of those platforms is the annual Economic Forum in Astana.

“We are investing notably in oncology and in new diagnostic systems.”

As the Area General Manager for Kazakhstan, Central Asia, and Mongolia, can you share with us your strategy to expand and consolidate your presence in the region?

We have numerous partners in this market, and are looking for programs where we propose that the government adopts competitive pricing. Our partners accept this as well because it will give greater options to patients, allowing hospitals to have access to well-priced products. The more patients have access to medicines, the more pricing flexibility the company can adopt. Increasing market penetration is a matter of the right interaction with healthcare professionals, something we focus on particularly intently. We do not speak about sales when dealing with healthcare professionals, and we expect a high level of knowledge and scientific engagement. For us it is more important to bring real expertise, knowledge, and a scientific approach. Our focus is the patient and the patient’s interests. The important thing here is the health care professional’s decision on how to provide the most beneficial service to the patient. This is why the medical component of our company is growing annually.

What about the production of pharmaceutical products here in the country?

That’s a good question. In Kazakhstan there are some local manufacturing companies and I think they are very well established. I think rather than establishing lots of manufacturing sites in Kazakhstan, we should concentrate on the existing ones and improving the quality and GMP standards and so forth. Establishing manufacturing facilities here requires a huge investment; it takes 5-7 years until the final establishment of the manufacturing process. The quality of the product that is expected by the patient is also high. We have to balance local manufacturing with our desire to ensure that we price our products at a level that patients are able to afford, and adding complexity to the supply chain often doesn’t make products more affordable. Licensing is a future collaboration of true potential between international companies operating here and existing manufacturers.

Kazakhstan, Belorussia and Russia will have a common pharmaceutical market from 2016 within the Eurasian Economic Union. How are pharmaceutical market dynamics set to change once common market start functioning?

I expect that the implementation of the new regulations in the pharmaceutical industry, if done correctly, which means understanding the business environment, including the local producers, and also the international companies who operate in those markets, will bring only benefits, like the mutual recognition of registration. We also see that, in terms of the production side, it will herald international standards, which will require higher-quality products; it can also bring in good clinical practice, effective distribution practice, and global manufacturing practice (GMP) standards.

Do you have any specific goals for 2015?

In terms of specific goals, it is mostly about the introduction of our patient-focused vision and our scientific engagement with healthcare professionals. When you are free of the pressure of targets you become more focused on knowledge levels, which we are delivering on, and expertise, which we are bringing. So it will require even more professional skills from our employees and I think of this as one of our ambitious targets; over the next year we want to be five steps ahead in order to make our employees more professional, more knowledgeable, and more partnership ready with healthcare professionals. In the pharmaceuticals industry, I expect the industry to change its vision of how business is conducted. Companies will, by and large, ultimately focus on quality.

© The Business Year – December 2014



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