Basel-based global pharmaceutical giant Novartis’ Turkey subsidiary is one of the largest in the market. Having invested $200 million in production operations in Turkish facilities, the company maintains its commitment to expanding operations and exports in the country. Vasant Narasimhan, the CEO of Novartis, recalled that Novartis has been active in Turkey since the 1950s. “We are Turkey's number one pharmaceutical company, and we will continue our investments to maintain our position,” Narasimhan told Turkish daily the Hürriyet on Friday. “Our presence in Turkey is crucial, and for Novartis, Turkey is very important as well. We have invested over $200 million in production in the last decade. One of our largest production facilities is located here.” Narasimhan highlighted that nearly 100 clinical tests for Novartis are currently being performed in Turkey. “We are doing some of the clinical tests, which are very important for the development of new drugs in Turkey as well as the world. For us, Turkey is one of the top countries in clinical testing. There is important manpower in Turkey. We also work with some of them abroad,” he noted. “We currently have 60 Turks working in various positions for Novartis abroad. There are professors with whom I have a one-on-one communication, especially in the development of our medicines related to cardiovascular diseases and the immune system. There is an important accumulation in this field in Turkey. Some university professors even support our global research.”
Narasimham, who visited Novartis' four production facilities in Turkey, said these facilities were in Istanbul's Kurtköy and Tuzla, and Kocaeli's Gebze. “I am quite impressed by our production size here. We produce 10 billion tablets annually. In particular, Novartis Turkey’s Kurtköy production facility is one of Novartis' seven strategic plants worldwide,” Narasimham further stressed, informing that innovative drugs, biosimilars, and generic drugs are produced in its Turkish facilities. Pointing out that Novartis Turkey is a leading pharmaceutical company exporting to more than 100 countries, he recalled that in 2018, the company had realized $123 million in exports and $20 million in investments in Turkey. “In short, Turkey is an important market for Novartis,” he added. “We are very committed to Turkey, and we are proud to be number one here, to manufacture and to be an exporter pharmaceutical company in Turkey. We aim to double our production in the next five years.” Narasimhan also talked about the government's pricing policy for drug purchases.
“Things are a bit more challenging here, as Turkey applies the lowest price in Europe. From an investor’s perspective, we have invested in production and infrastructure. We support innovation and production in Turkey. In this context, we hope that the support given to innovation in Turkey will increase,” Narasimhan said. “Currently we want to increase our production and exports, and we continue to make investments within this scope. However, the volatility in exchange rate creates uncertainty, and even the most innovative products are subject to the lowest purchase price in Europe, which is a market challenge. We want a little more balance regarding this. If a different price policy was followed, close to 100 million people would have access to the most innovative drugs. When this is the case, the introduction of state-of-the-art medicines may be postponed for some time, but this may not be the ideal situation for the people.” The Novartis Group has recently developed new platforms in advanced treatment areas such as cells and genes. Novartis has made one of the largest investments in cell and gene therapy in the industry, with a net sales figure of $51.9 billion in 2018, of which $9.1 billion were transferred to group-wide R&D activities. CEO Narasimhan said that the boss-free company principle implemented in the global structuring of Novartis is also applied in Turkey. “We hire great people, tell them about our goals and strategies, and then we let them do their jobs,” he stressed. “With the 'boss-free company' practice, we eliminate obstacles. When you think of hierarchy, someone will always be telling someone else what to do, but companies like us that need innovation and discovery need to think freely. In Turkey, where we have more than 2,000 employees, we apply this boss-free company structure and get very effective results.”