FIFARMA getting it together for patients in Latin America

Thursday, 1 September 2016

Reporting by Kawaldip Sehmi, IAPO CEO, from the FIFARMA strategy meeting in Panama City 

A good start-invite the patients to observe! 

Like most of us, you are probably now searching the Internet for the acronym FIFARMA. You will find very little about it!

The Federacion Latinoamericana de la Industria Farmaceutica (FIFARMA) or the Latin American Pharmaceutical Industry Federation has a small online footprint at the moment. This is because it is a relatively new organization whose acronym hasn't been picked up by the Google algorithm, and not because it is some secretive organization! The FIFARMA website is still under construction.

This position will not last long. There will be a lot of information placed online over the coming months and year. FIFARMA is destined to become a strong advocate for health in Latin American.

Many of you may, however, already be familiar with the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers & Associations (IFPMA), FIFARMA's older sister.

IAPO has worked with IFPMA in the past to develop the Consensus Framework for Ethical Collaboration and has an ongoing collaboration with it to foster innovation, promote resilient regulatory systems and support the adoption of high standards of quality, ethical practices, and sustainable health policies to meet the global needs of our patients. Lately, we are working with them to map patient, regulator, prescriber and dispenser perspectives on biotherapeutics (biologic and biosimilar medicines).

What I found at the meeting held in Panama City from 26-27 July was that far from being a secretive organization, FIFARMA is very open, inviting IAPO to be a full observer and to contribute to their workshops and proceedings. They provided an “access to all areas pass", translators and full documentation about the proceedings. This is a very good start to patient engagement by FIFARMA!

Vision and mission 

The meeting started with a lawyer reading out a statement outlining how the members present should conduct their business. The statement defined the things that they could  discuss and matters that they couldn't  in order to ensure that the meeting complied with competition law and standards of business ethics. The lawyer gently reminded them that she would be in the room throughout the session and would step in if anyone breached this rule. In the event, she did not need to. Everyone was well-behaved!

FIFARMA’s vision and objectives were clearly stated in opening the meeting in their strategy documents:

  • They want to be the regional voice of the innovative pharmaceutical industry, supporting the development of a sustainable and patient-centric healthcare system in Latin America 
  • To engage in the development of policies that foster the access to high-quality pharmaceutical innovations that prolong, preserve and improve life for patients in Latin America

To have a regional body is going to be a very good force for change in Latin America as our patients' organizations in the region will no longer have to depend on industry representatives in Washington, London, Berlin, Geneva or Paris to address their queries and concerns. They will have an accessible local regional body with plenty of local knowledge to help them.


We can also place full confidence in FIFARMA because it is well-led. The LinkedIn page of FIFARMA’s Director General Luis Villalba shows that he has had an illustrious professional career in the industry and is well connected with key players in the region.

His second-in-command is another tour-de-force. He is Juan Carlos Trujilloan, the International Policy and Operations Director, who is extremely efficient and a very busy person; you had to run to keep up with him at the meeting.  He has extensive experience in public affairs, having worked at a very senior level within many governments and ministries in the region and is well-connected with the patient movement in the region.


FIFARMA will be governed by a series of committees and conduct its business with support from a diverse and comprehensive membership comprising of people with diverse skill-sets.   They have four confirmed work-groups so far and room for further ad-hoc ones like a patients group to support governance. Each group brings in cross-sectoral and multi-skilled participation:

  • Healthcare sustainability (32 participants)
  • Regulatory & biologics (37 participants)
  • PAHO & IR (30 participants)
  • Vaccines (11 participants)
  • Ad hoc Groups when needed


FIFARMA has already laid down a tentative programme and work plan. They will be pursuing work under the following themes:

  • MCDA position paper
  • HTA position paper
  • Health Care sustainability
  • HTA annual event
  • Pharmacovigilance
  • Regulatory Transparency
  • Biotherapeutic guidelines
  • Communication and advocacy
  • Patient advocacy
  • Transparency International Compliance project
  • Regional Observatory
  • PAHO -access to medicines initiative
  • PAHO Foundation
  • PANDRH - Drug Regulatory Harmonization

FIFARMA is going to be a very exciting and a much-needed venture that promises to help Latin American patients develop a safe, quality and well-regulated medicines market in the region that is well governed, participatory, transparent and accountable.