“As an in-house lawyer, it’s important to be a strategic ally to the business”

Marcela Inzunza, head of legal for Latam South Pacific at global biopharma company GSK, tells us about the results of the joint venture between GSK and Pfizer and what it has meant for her legal department, as well as the main challenges in the biopharmaceutical sphere in Latam.

Posted mercredi, décembre 14 2022
“As an in-house lawyer, it’s important to be a strategic ally to the business”

Marcela Inzunza

Leaders League: Tell us briefly about your role at GSK

Marcela Inzunza: GSK is a global biopharmaceutical company dedicated to uniting science, technology and talent in order to overcome diseases together. Our goal is to positively influence the health of 2.5 billion people over the next 10 years. I am part of a multidisciplinary team in charge of three countries in Latam South Pacific: Chile, Peru, and Ecuador, reporting directly to the UK. I oversee legal practices in those three countries in a highly regulated sector of the economy, which involves conducting corporate regulatory affairs, optimizing departmental operations; leveraging the legal acumen of our professionals to drive business objectives; assessing processes, identifying gaps, and applying simple solutions to complex issues. To achieve this purpose, we have a network of external lawyers, specialists in different areas and jurisdictions, who are an important part of my work. I define structure, oversee contracts, negotiate agreements, in collaboration with executive management. I also liaise with the compliance department on the interpretation and scope of regulations applicable to the different entities.  

What have been your main achievements at GSK?

As a result of the joint venture between GSK and Pfizer, GSK’s consumer division became an independent company, now called Haleon. It should be recalled that Haleon is a joint venture between GSK and Pfizer following the merger between the two customer healthcare subsidiaries, which led to the creation of a giant with sales of more than £10bn (€11.7bn). The deal was agreed on in 2018 and carried out the following year, but it was not until 2022 that it was finalized.

The process of separating and exiting consumer health was both a significant challenge globally and an achievement for the legal department specifically, as we were able to make a smooth and successful transition, considering the high complexity of the transaction.

What recent regulatory changes have most impacted the company? 

Being in a highly regulated industry, we are always vigilant of our legal environment. Important points to analyze and implement have been the telecommuting laws, the Organic Law on Data Protection in Ecuador, the labor outsourcing law in Peru, and the processing of the Pharmaceuticals II Bill in Chile.

We must live up to and follow through on our commitment to stay two steps ahead of the most demanding regulations.

What are the main compliance challenges for the pharmaceutical sector? Is there much difference between countries in the South Pacific region?

The main challenges in this environment are making innovative products accessible to the bulk of the population; to raise awareness among healthcare sector actors about pathologies, their prevention and treatment; to confront the consequences of eventual disruptions in the supply chain; the collection, analysis, and security of large volumes of data; transparency in relations with healthcare professionals; managing resistance to change in a disruptive industrial sector.

At GSK, we make innovative vaccines and speciality medicines to prevent and treat disease. Our R&D focuses on immune science, human genetics, and advanced technologies, so the regulations that govern us are complex and demanding. We must live up to and follow through on our commitment to stay two steps ahead of the most demanding regulations.

How do you empower women in your day-to-day professional practice?

Empowering women is one of my main focuses. In addition to my activity as head of legal, to which I always try to give a gender focus, bringing issues to light, sharing material, preparing myself to take on more responsibilities. I am a speaker and mentor for various initiatives aimed at giving women in all areas of society equal access to opportunities. I am interested in ensuring women’s voices are heard and I strive to do so each and every day.

A recent survey of in-house lawyers conducted by Leaders League found that one the skills they value most in an external law firm is understanding the business and being pro-business. What do you think about this?

I agree wholeheartedly. When you outsource a legal service, you need the firm, its partners and associates to understand the business, the context, the focus, to be a partner and, of course, to share the vision and mission of the company. You need a specialist in a particular area to row the boat with you and help you achieve the objectives of the company as a whole; to provide you with a point of view, perhaps a different one, to contribute and help you improve.

Certainly, a lawyer who does his work with the end business in mind benefits his client enormously and allows him to make informed decisions about the risks of the transaction. It is important to be a strategic ally to the business as well as having the ability to say no when necessary. While one of our main roles is to keep the business out of trouble, a lawyer can be risk focused and reluctant to make changes, or be a partner, which entails a more flexible and, probably, more creative approach.

In this context, Legal must necessarily establish itself as a specialist in its field, a partner from the genesis of projects, a guardian of the company's reputation, rights, and duties.