Pascale Richetta | AbbVie

Biopharmaceutical company AbbVie is leading a new approach in the industry. As Vice President for Western Europe and Canada, Pascale Richetta believes that patient-centricity and a commitment to innovation can save Europe’s struggling healthcare systems

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Pascale Richetta, EU CEO of AbbVie. The leader believes that biopharmaceutical medicines have a great future ahead

Biopharmaceutical medicines are often seen as financially unviable for Europe’s healthcare systems. However, this unwillingness to consider factors apart from pricing could mean patients miss out on the benefits these medicines offer. “Health should be seen as an investment, not a cost; we need to enable a better understanding of the value contributed by biopharmaceutical companies”, says Pascale Richetta, Vice President for Western Europe and Canada at AbbVie. “Biopharmaceutical medicines are essential for bringing clinical benefit to patients through their unique methods of action.”

Combining the focus and passion of a leading biotech firm with the expertise and structure of an established pharmaceutical leader, AbbVie is a rare thing in today’s climate. A global biopharmaceutical firm with the ability to discover and advance innovative therapies, while meeting the needs of people around the world, the pioneer has played a major part in boosting Europe’s healthcare competencies.

Pascale Richetta CV

1959, France

Medicine, University of Poitiers

2002: After graduating from the University of Poitiers in 1986 as a qualified physician, Richetta moved into business, becoming vice president of operations at GlaxoSmithKline
2004: Having obtained significant experience in the pharmaceutical industry, Richetta joined US-based pharmaceutical firm Abbott, which became AbbVie in 2013
2009: She worked in various roles, including general manager for Belgium and divisional vice president, before becoming Vice President for Western Europe and Canada
2014: In a keen example of Richetta and AbbVie’s committment to sustainability, she was a founding member of the European Steering Group for Sustainable Healthcare

A costly problem
“We are all aware of the many challenges facing healthcare systems across Europe”, says Richetta. “Anyone who has been a patient will have experienced something of the challenges the sector is facing. The healthcare provided at national level is, I am in no doubt, delivered in the best way possible, and by highly skilled and devoted professionals, but it is no longer sufficient. Existing healthcare models, set up for acute care, have become outdated. Not only do they no longer fit our needs, but they are becoming prohibitive.”

Europe’s population is ageing fast. By 2050, 37 percent will be over 60. At the same time, there has been a shift to chronic care, with chronic disease now responsible for 86 percent of all deaths and a factor for more than 80 percent of people over 65. This, in turn, represents an estimated €700bn spent on healthcare every year. “Diseases are evolving and innovation is hampered due to economic constraints. Healthcare systems are under threat and becoming unsustainable. It is increasingly clear that if we don’t act now, patients will lose out on innovation and access to care.”

With the economic situation in Europe at a crossroads and national healthcare systems overloaded, new and innovative approaches could prove key in easing the strain on both the economy and patients. “Industry needs to work with the wider healthcare system to look ahead at future challenges, which are not so far off, and work out the solutions that can be adopted and that could enable a sustainable system”, says Richetta. “A key part of this is having the focus, passion and expertise to discover and advance innovative therapies that will meet the health needs of people and societies around the world. At AbbVie, we have that breakthrough spirit.”

Confronted with pressing demands to constrain costs, AbbVie’s focus currently falls on developing novel solutions, as well as combining advanced science with a deep knowledge of diseases. By investing in new technology and approaches, medical breakthroughs can be realised more quickly than they otherwise would.

New approach
“We have a leading role to play in responding to the public health challenges of today and tomorrow. As a biopharmaceutical firm, we are contributing to the economic wellbeing of Europe while championing the innovation needed to achieve breakthroughs and the development of game-changing medicines”, says Richetta. “Our role is multifaceted. It is not enough to maintain the status quo; we must continue to innovate and anticipate challenges. AbbVie is, therefore, dedicating research and resources to innovation, and is engaged in impactful collaborations, like partnerships with Google, Calico and Galapagos, in order to discover and advance innovative therapies and meet the health needs of people around the globe.”

Beyond breakthrough therapies, AbbVie is engaged in a number of initiatives focused on advancing care and improving healthcare delivery, in order to making healthcare sustainable.

Healthcare is often delivered in silos, with participants focused on delivering a service or selling a medicine, rather than on improving health. New models are evolving in order to take a more holistic approach, focusing on quality and the outcomes of care. AbbVie believes this coordinated and patient-centric approach is essential to improving patient health and the long-term sustainability of healthcare systems, and is taking steps to help make it a reality.

“Our core areas of focus include advanced therapies for difficult-to-treat conditions, robust R&D investment to change the standard of care, insight-driven programmes for patients and health professionals, and a steadfast commitment to corporate responsibility”, says Richetta. “We direct $715m globally to offer and improve healthcare through strategic and impactful philanthropic activities. We have five R&D and manufacturing sites in Europe, including a state-of-the-art R&D site in Germany, and production sites in Italy, Ireland and Germany. We have invested $150m in R&D in our Ludwigshafen site since 2001. The EU set the competitive and research policy objective that, by 2020, a three percent share of European GDP will be spent on R&D – AbbVie far exceeded this. At the same time, we are also actively participating in the European Commission’s Active and Healthy Ageing Partnership workshops on prevention, early diagnosis and adherence to treatment.”

As a founding member of the European Steering Group for Sustainable Healthcare, which published a Roadmap for Sustainable Healthcare earlier this year, Richetta’s commitment to innovation in healthcare clearly goes beyond medicine; applying also to improved outcomes for patients and society as a whole. In developing the Roadmap, AbbVie first enabled more than 30 pilot projects at national level to gather concrete evidence. The company is particularly proud of the Early Intervention Clinic in the Hospital Clinico San Carlos, Spain. The project shows that every €1 investment can generate a saving of €11 in health and social welfare. The hospital reduced the number of sick days, the use of healthcare resources, social security compensation payments and even permanent work disabilities by developing early diagnosis, referral and intervention programmes.

Economic contribution
The focus on costs, says Richetta, is preventing many in Europe from seeing the value of biopharmaceutical companies. In order to better understand the situation, observers must make a balanced assessment of the situation. “The pharmaceutical sector makes a major contribution to society in terms of innovation, R&D, employment and GDP. For example, in 2013 AbbVie contributed €3.1bn to European GDP. In addition to the direct economic effects, AbbVie also contributed indirect value of €1.4bn and induced value of €942m within other sectors of the European economy. Innovative medicines are research-intensive, and this requires significant upfront investment from us. But we do this in full knowledge that the financial investment is not the sum of the medicines’ value, which is so diverse as to constitute both life-saving treatment for patients and the provision of jobs throughout Europe in the stages of development, manufacture and supply.”

AbbVie, therefore, is a key contributor to the economy and a major cog in driving sustainability. “The sector contributes to everyday lives in many ways. Biopharmaceutical companies make well-tolerated, effective medicines, but they also make a considerable economic contribution, stimulating growth, providing employment and investing in R&D for the future.”

AbbVie distributes medicines in 27 EU/EEA countries and 170 countries worldwide. In order to more clearly understand AbbVie’s economic footprint in Europe, independent consultancy WifOR conducted a study looking at its value from a number of perspectives, including contribution to GDP, R&D and employment. The results showed that, in 2013, AbbVie generated over €3.6bn of value-added effect. In that same year, AbbVie employed 7,200 people directly. AbbVie’s activities resulted in 24,250 indirect and 17,414 induced jobs. This means, according to the study, that almost 49,000 jobs in Europe are attributable to the business activity of AbbVie. For every AbbVie job, the company indirectly underpinned 3.6 jobs and induced 2.4 jobs within Europe.

In order to quantify the value of not just AbbVie, but of biopharmaceutical medicines as a whole, it’s important to consider the innovation and research that goes into them. “If you look at the example of Humira, we have brought more than 17 years of clinical experience and more than 10 indications in different therapeutic areas such as rheumatology, dermatology or gastroenterology. As of today, more than 843,000 patients have benefited from Humira. We must consider the impact of our medicines. For example, between 2000 and 2010, life expectancy in Europe increased by 1.74 years. 73 percent of this increase was linked to innovative medicines.”

AbbVie in numbers:




Revenue 2013




Revenue 2014

Holistic change
Not content with just adding value to the economy, AbbVie’s success is underpinned by patient focus. “It is important to have the patient perspective in all aspects of business activity. AbbVie goes beyond the molecule. We have interviewed thousands of patients to understand their experience. We use that knowledge to guide development of new medicines, delivery devices and support programmes. We think holistically. We aim to help patients to live healthier lives. To me, this means we need to go to the patient, the doctor, the customer and ask them: what do you need? What do you want from AbbVie? How can we build your trust and deliver what you need? AbbVie has always differentiated itself by putting patients at the centre of everything. We go to great lengths to understand and fulfil patients’ needs, and this has a direct impact on our approach to how we run our business”, says Richetta.

“To be patient-centric means to truly understand diseases at every stage, understand the manufacture and delivery of medicine, and understand the entire patient experience. It also means properly understanding the healthcare system and developing support programmes to empower patients and healthcare professionals alike. We are developing a patient support programme called AbbVie Care, which offers patients free information and advice to help them get the most of their treatment plan and reduce the impact of their symptoms.”

It is this drive to make healthcare more sustainable that has really set AbbVie apart. The company has been listed in the Dow Jones Sustainability North America Index for leadership in responsible, economic, environmental and social performance, and scored 100/100 in the category of Strategy to Improve Access to Medicines or Products and 90/100 in four categories: Bioethics, Corporate Citizenship and Philanthropy, Risk and Crisis Management, and Occupational Health and Safety.

“Our history in sustainable healthcare reaches back a long way, but for me 2013 was a key year, as we launched Recipes for Sustainable Healthcare, a multi-stakeholder initiative that looked at ways to ensure and promote sustainable healthcare at national and EU level. Then, in 2015, we launched our pan-European White Paper on sustainable healthcare, with 18 recommendations based on over 30 initiatives in member states. The publication of the White Paper was a seminal moment in recognising what we can achieve when we work together.”

In drawing on the WifOR study, AbbVie can see where it is adding value and where it can do better. “In my mind, it is a vital point of reference as we look to the future. I have firm plans to keep driving forward innovation, patient centricity and sustainable healthcare. The study showed where we are adding value, but my vision has always recognised the importance of collaboration. I hope we will continue to engage with a wide range of healthcare stakeholders, from health professionals, to decision makers, to patients. I am proud of AbbVie’s contribution. Every day we continue to grow, but there is always more that we can do.”