Changing the Culture of Health – Interview

The Economic Update, September 2011, by Dr Anthia Zammit:

I sat down with the young, enterprising, self-employed lawyer at The Black Pearl Restaurant for a candid interview touching on her experience and insight, which are an invaluable resource for those seeking to look critically at Health and Pharmaceutical law.

Speaking about the challenges she faced in setting-up her own legal practice and what her future objectives are, Dr. Zammit states, “setting-up my own legal practice was very much a natural step. I interned at several prolific law firms and at the Medicines Authority during my legal studies at the University of Malta, and subsequently joined the business law and tax consultancy firm Fenech Farrugia Fiott as an Associate. These work experiences helped me gauge my strengths and weaknesses and gave me the confidence to trust in my abilities and take the plunge. I am particularly pleased with having established strong affiliations with a number of leading entities and professionals in the corporate and financial services sector. What I certainly did not want was to set up just another law firm that caters for all industries, but rather to focus on specific areas – namely Healthcare and Life sciences (Pharmaceuticals, Medical Devices, Biotechnology), Public Procurement, Regulatory Compliance, Commercial Law and Intellectual Property, Real Estate and Property Development.” This is a challenge in itself, but Anthia believes that “professional independence and specialisation allow for stronger commitment to fostering honest relationships with clients and recognising client goals and requirements on a truly personal level. My future aim is fairly straightforward; to earn and retain the reputation as a market leader in my chosen specialist sectors.”

In consideration of the global reach of these industries and practice areas, Anthia’s career path extent decrees her presence in other jurisdictions. “My work spans different parts of the globe, particularly Europe and the USA. Dealing with international clients inevitably requires close collaboration with corporations, law firms and regulatory entities abroad. As an American citizen and member of the American Chamber of Commerce in Malta, my international work is predominantly focused on providing legal services to US companies operating in Malta or seeking to expand their global business operations through Malta, and to Maltese companies wishing to invest in the US,” she explains.

Anthia has undertaken a specific entrepreneurial venture in her quest to establish herself a leader in Health and Pharmaceutical law. From start-up to acquisition, and is resultantly recognised as an expert on legal corporate services, regulatory compliance and assessing policy impact. She talks with ease and oozes confidence, as her eyes shimmer with enthusiasm about the importance of Health and Pharmaceutical law in the community. I ask her how the law has contributed to reinforcing the security and wellbeing of patients and consumers, especially in Malta. Sitting poised, she replies, “European Law has revolutionised our local medicines law regime. As a European member state, Malta is fully compliant with EU regulatory legislation and is involved in policy development at the European level. National competent authorities in each member state are responsible for ensuring the implementation and enforcement of laws and regulations aimed at ensuring the safety, quality and efficacy of medicinal products for sale or supply on the EU market.” She maintains that in Malta, the national public health remit with respect to pharmaceutical activity, medicines information and licensing, safety monitoring and the availability and use of medicinal products on the local market lies with the Medicines Authority, as delegated to it by the Licensing Authority by virtue of the Medicines Act. “Patients and consumers may rest assured that medicinal products purchased in Malta through the legal supply chain are to EU standards. This is a major achievement and I believe that the Authority successfully attains its commitments and objectives. The way forward is to translate these milestones into greater public awareness via health education and health literacy campaigns and to further consolidate current processes,” she says.

I have come to know Dr. Zammit as someone who has deep knowledge of a market segment that is sometimes neglected or poorly served and she is always ready to develop a way to correct the inefficiency. Providing an insight into her role as legal advisor to the Healthcare Business Section of the Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry, I enquire whether there is any conflict of interest between the different stakeholders within the life sciences and pharmaceutical sectors and her reply is instantaneous, “the Healthcare Business Section is comprised of wholesale distributors (importers) of medicinal products and medical devices.

Its current activities as an active stakeholder include representation on the Working Committee in the Pricing of Medicinal Products (WCPMP) and participation in discussions on tender conditions in public procurement. Considering the Chamber’s role as a forum involved in National and EU policy-formation, I advise the Section on present and forthcoming local and EU regulations and legislative developments which may impact the operations of its members.” Anthia explains that the life science and pharmaceutical industries are comprised of a number of different stakeholders which may have different objectives and interests. This necessitates a tailor-made approach and quick response to changing requirements in a highly competitive business environment. “Leadership in specialist sectors that respects strict confidentiality and offers best value is therefore essential. The sensitivity of health-related issues and the unique nature of the clients’ product, such as medicines, medical devices, cosmetics, infant formulae and specialty chemicals, require an appreciation of reputational risk, balanced by a commercial and robust approach,” she says.

Dr. Zammit is also the legal advisor with the Malta Health Network (MHN) and a member of the European Patients Forum (EPF) Policy Advisory Group. Asking her how these organisations promote health advocacy and patient empowerment, Anthia confirms that, “the MHN represents the interests of patients and community health on the National and International fora and develops capacitybuilding through exchange of best practice among more than 25 health-related NGOs, NPOs and patient representation groups. This is further facilitated through its affiliations with the European Public Health Alliance and the European Patients Forum. The latter’s Policy Advisory Group was set-up to advise on prioritized policy topics in response to increased complexity of EU health law and policy.” The overall rationale of these organisations is to encourage direct patient involvement in developing the laws and policies that affect them and to voice patients’ concerns collectively at the EU level. “I consider my contribution at MHN and EPF to be extremely rewarding in terms of understanding the outcome of legislation on the end-user (patients and consumers) and how it can be further improved to their advantage,” affirms Dr. Zammit.

Anthia believes entrepreneurship can only be encouraged if we review our education set-up, stating clearly more than her Swarovski crystal eyes exude, that, “the Maltese education system needs an overhaul to bring about greater diversification if students are to be adequately prepared for future demands in a new business climate. Intensive training programmes and internships are essential to help young graduates learn an entrepreneurial way of thinking. This is not only vital to attracting overseas investment but also to ensure a healthy export of fresh ideas,” she sums up.