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Kevin O'Brien
President - North America

09 February 2023

How does Merz Therapeutics integrate in the larger context of the industry and what is your vision for the company?

At Merz we strive to provide better outcomes for our patients, and we try to cater to their needs with as much specificity as possible. Right from the start, our focus has been on neurological conditions, as a result we naturally switched our attention towards movement disorders where we provide alleviation through our drug Xeomin. 20 years ago we launched the first active compound for moderate to severe Alzheimer's disease, so we have solid background in this field. For the last five years, we have been able to get closer to patient advocacy groups and we get great satisfaction from seeing how our therapies are improving the quality of life for so many people.  

What strategies are you employing when it comes to developing a new drug?

When developing new drugs, we are not hunting for blockbuster treatments because we prefer to offer treatment to the simple symptoms that can heavily impact a patient's life. For example, sialorrhea (excessive drooling) affects over 80% of the people that are suffering from Parkinson's disease, but less than half of them is talking to their physician about it. More than a few hundred thousand patients are suffering from spasticity since there are about 800,000 stroke cases per year - out of which 40% end up with spinal cord injuries. As a result, raising awareness for patients and their caregivers is now part of our drug development process. 


Besides traditional FDA trials, real world evidence is an important part of the entire infrastructure, and by looking at the available data, we always try to find unique approaches.


Xeomin is different than a traditional pharmaceutical product since it is a physician injected drug that needs to be administered every 16 weeks. Drugs R&D is a long and costly operation, but, even so, we were able to get three indications in one year, so the process with the FDA is working favorably. Although we work hard every day, all the processes and trials that need to be conducted still amount to five to ten years to get to the approval stage. 

Tech is becoming increasingly central in the life sciences - does it also lead Merz to operate in new ways in the industry?

Obviously, we are living through a super exciting time in the industry thanks to all the technological advancements that have been made in the last couple of years. We are actually using technology to help us in our endeavor of bringing knowledge to the mass market. Instead of following the traditional U.S. style of direct consumer advertising, we decided to put together a digital platform where patients can get connected to physicians. We aim to make it as easy to find out as possible that there are treatment options which are not only available but also cost effective and increasingly efficient. 

We have seen how a patient that has post stroke spasticity may pass through ten office visits before getting to the fact that this is something that can be treated. By pushing technology forward, we think that we could really speed up the healthcare system. And last but not least, we would also be able to offer treatments that are both affordable and accessible to a wide category of patients. 

In what way do you think the Inflation Reduction Act will influence the healthcare market?

We definitely share the concern about affordable medicines, and we are helping the system through rightly priced therapies, but we also want to make sure that innovation does not stagnate. It is absolutely crucial to continually support new medicines, especially for niche affections where patients are the most vulnerable. We also need strong professionals who can deliver treatments, so it is absolutely necessary that we have a well-regulated market. 

What are the main objectives Merz would like to achieve in the coming two to three years?

First and foremost, we would like to expand our first line indications for our neurotoxin so as to cover all the disorders that are now being left behind. We are also interested in educating and training the next generation of injectors because it is crucial to give only excellent outcomes. Being a 110 years old company, we are really excited about the innovation that is going to come in the next 100 years and, of course, we are more than eager to bring our contribution to it. There is an unmatched feeling when patients come to us and say that Xeomin literally changed their lives and we want to continue to do this good in the future because seeing our vision materialized in such beautiful forms is simply amazing.

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