Features

Jonathan Ahuet – Aspen Pharmacare

His prescription calls for Latin American expansion

It’s a huge region but so far Aspen Pharmacare’s Latin American market share for branded generic and specialty drugs has been primarily Mexico. According to Jonathan Ahuet, that’s changing.

“Latin and South America are growing and so are we,” he says from Mexico City.

Jonathan Ahuet | Regional Legal Director | Aspen Pharmacare

Jonathan Ahuet | Regional Legal Director | Aspen Pharmacare

As regional legal director since February 2022, Ahuet immerses in acquisition protocols, reviewing among other details, the labor, corporate and contractual implications. He also advises the CEOs in Mexico, Central America, Argentina, Uruguay, Ecuador, Perú, Colombia, and Chile, and coordinates with regional experts and outside counsel for how Aspen should proceed.

“The most important part of my role is to be analytical and pragmatic so I may help Aspen achieve all of its goals,” he says. “The challenge I face is to push through certain things for the good of the company. Some resist changes but we can always find ways to work better.”

Making a difference

He’s made much impact since joining Aspen in the latest stop of a 14-year career counseling Mexico City pharma and now having the opportunity to weigh in on a larger jurisdiction. There was much to do from the get-go, with some business practices needing revision.

Everyone’s got to bring value to their position, Ahuet emphasizes, and he was determined for Aspen to get sufficient bang for its buck on outside services, trimming the roster and demanding more from those under his wing.

“Some attorneys reach a point in their career where they become too comfortable,” he says. “If you’re in-house, you’re here to be part of the business and you shouldn’t be asking external attorneys to do your job.”

Then there was the contracting which was still mostly manual. Whereas COVID-19 forced Aspen to modernize with electronic signatures and other technological ways for streamlining, Ahuet hasn’t let the company backslide with the worst of the pandemic hopefully over. Efficiency, he reminds, is a must with the ambitious expansion plan well underway.

While most of his contact outside of Mexico has been virtual, he’ll be making the rounds in the other countries this year. It’s always beneficial, Ahuet says, to establish personal relationships. But large as the entire operation is, he says the Latin American division is relatively small and more to his liking than some of his other in-house roles.

“I came here because I wanted to see my work reflected,” he says. “At the bigger pharmas, so much is in place and you’re not always able to create as much value as you’d like. Big pharma works you like a robot. Here you realize that as an attorney, you really are creating value.”

Building a career

Overlooked as he might have felt in previous positions, Ahuet credits all with enabling him to oversee the pharmaceutical industry’s legal complexities. A 2005 law graduate of the University of Tepeyac with additional credentials from the National Autonomous University of Mexico and Monterrey Technologist, he’s spent 18 years in-house with Mexico City operations. He started with a three-year stint in 2007 as corporate counsel with the technology and special materials company Celanese.

Since 2010, it’s been all pharma, starting with a former colleague beckoning him to Bayer as senior counsel and compliance function officer. That being a new industry for Ahuet, it necessitated a sharp learning curve, but he took well to it and wanted to set straight what he viewed as misperceptions.

“Some see pharma as a monster but once you’re inside you see the focus is on doing good,” he says. “Everything is about the patient. It’s not all about revenue.”

He left Bayer in 2013 to manage Abbott’s Mexican, Caribbean and Central American legal operations for the next five years. Afterward came stints at Mundipharma and Grunenthal Group and finally to Aspen.

While Ahuet says he respects the work of private lawyers, he prefers working from the inside because of its opportunity to immerse in projects from conception to completion. There’s so much on Aspen’s agenda, he’s certain to keep busy.

Ever the lifelong learner, he’s enrolled in a master’s program for business law at Universidad Anahuac. His wife seems equally ambitious, she distinguishing herself as a chemical engineer with Honeywell. The couple has a 7-year-old son and visit the Cancun beaches as often as their responsibilities permit.

An avid NFL fan who, along with his brother, attended college on a football scholarship, Ahuet occasionally takes his family north of the border to see a game, especially when his favorite team, the Cincinnati Bengals, is playing.

As to what inspired Ahuet to pursue a legal career, he cites his father. Though his father wasn’t a lawyer, he was a no-nonsense negotiator as a businessman and it rubbed off on the son.

“He never told me I’d have to be an attorney but supported me in everything I did,” Ahuet says. “Above all, he said ‘bring value to me and the family.’ And my mother always put my brother and I first in every decision she made.”

Ahuet says he does his best to live up to that responsibility and how his Aspen role furthers it.

“It’s so satisfying when you see your product in the hands of a doctor,” he says. “There’s a lot of expense details to overcome, but in the end you’re doing something to help people.”

View this feature in the Vanguard Summer I 2023 Edition here.

Published on: May 16, 2023

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