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MTP-CA Team Embraces Responsibility to Serve Patients, Exemplifying Corporate Vision

Q&A with President Andy

In his role as president of Mitsubishi Tanabe Pharma Canada (MTP-CA), Andy Zylak brings a steadfast focus to lead the company in helping Canadians living with rare and other diseases. With more than 20 years of experience in the Canadian pharmaceutical industry, Andy has developed a clear understanding of what it takes to make a real difference in the lives of people facing rare diseases. Andy shares his vision for MTP-CA in Canada.

Drawing on your experience in the industry, what do you feel makes MTP-CA different as a company in Canada?

MTP-CA is special because the values of our organization drive every decision that is made. Those values centre around doing what is best for the patient while being responsible as a global pharmaceutical company. In March 2023, the Canadian government announced a National Strategy for Drugs for Rare Diseases. Some of the key elements of the strategy include bi-lateral work between the federal and provincial and territorial governments, a focus on patient data and the establishment of a new stakeholder advisory group. MTP-CA views the strategy as an important first step for the rare disease community in Canada. We will continue to collaborate with all levels of government on the implementation of this strategy as a member of RAREi, an informal network of research-based bio pharmaceutical innovators committed to monitoring, responding and shaping policy issues in the Canadian rare disease environment. In addition, we remain committed to meeting the needs of patients through the development of rare disease products, our collaborative work with healthcare professionals around real-world evidence, and helping to ensure timely access to treatments for life-altering diseases. Our team is passionate and motivated to make a difference and we take our job of maintaining Canada as an important marketplace for innovative therapies seriously.

What is your vision for MTP-CA?

First and foremost, we are, and always will be, a company that operates with ethics and puts patients at the forefront of every decision that we make. My vision for MTP-CA is to continue to prove we can successfully bring new therapies to Canadians in a way that benefits the patient, while allowing the company to recover the massive investment that goes along with bringing a product to the marketplace. As our global company continues to invest in other serious diseases, I would be pleased to know that Canada is a great place where we can deliver results and serve the patients.

One of the things we are really is passionate about at MTP-CA is not only successfully bringing innovative therapies to the market, but making a contribution beyond our products to the actual disease areas that we’re working in. We want to continue to act as a true partner to the key stakeholders that we work with including patients, patient associations and healthcare professionals.

When you think about the rare disease community, what inspires you most?

In every one of my interactions with people living with rare diseases in Canada, there’s been a consistent theme of hope and resiliency – and a sense of optimism that they can fight their disease. These individuals, their families and loved ones are aware of the prognosis and typical course of their disease, yet they have a strong mental attitude that includes seeking the very best outcome possible. They try to live life to the fullest, knowing that every day matters. To be able to be directly involved with patients, patient associations and physicians is an incredible experience.

As the president of MTP-CA, how do you inspire your team to live the corporate values?

A big part of our team’s inspiration is a sense of shared accountability — that we’re all building this together. It’s that sense of “We” that allows teams to surpass individuals every time.  We are building a world class team where everyone has a strong sense of “getting in the game” and understands how their individual role contributes to the bigger picture that we’re all on a mission to be trusted partners of our healthcare colleagues in the clinical setting.  It’s also inspirational to see how much of a personal commitment has been made by many people from our parent company and all in the spirit of helping to get our medicine to patients as quickly as possible

What are your observations about innovation in the rare disease space in Canada?

Canadians deserve access to approved treatments for rare diseases, like ALS. Unfortunately, only 65% of new rare disease technologies or pharmaceutical innovations actually make it to the market in Canada. When we received the mandate from our parent company to bring our innovative therapy to treat ALS to the market in Canada, it was a challenge we took very seriously. We want to demonstrate that we can launch products successfully so that Canada maintains its position as a priority market for global pharmaceutical companies to bring new rare disease products into the market. In 2018, we launched the first new treatment for ALS in almost 20 years and in 2022, we launched a new and less burdensome oral treatment formulation choice for people living with ALS. Canada is an important market for pharmaceuticals and it should remain that way.

What are some of the challenges when it comes to rare diseases?

One of the unfortunate realities is that rare diseases, like ALS, can progress very quickly. In the case of ALS, the average time from diagnosis to death is approximately three to five years. A big challenge for patients is getting a diagnosis in a timely fashion, which can sometimes take up to two years. Getting a diagnosis quickly is crucial because there are parameters around eligibility for therapy.

At MTP-CA, we work with key stakeholders to do what we can to help shorten the time to diagnosis by investing in raising awareness in the community and among neurologists about the importance of timely diagnosis.

In what ways does the company currently make contributions to the rare disease community, beyond its products?

We work with patient associations and non-profits who are helping to raise awareness and funds for rare diseases. We also work with the physician community. We support fellowships so that young clinicians have the opportunity to learn about and work in the ALS space and hopefully view it as an area to dedicate their careers. And importantly, we invest in the generation of real-world evidence through our partnership with the Canadian Neuromuscular Disease Registry.