Reuben Saba, Ph.D. is the Vice President of Medical and Business Affairs at Medicure.
Reuben Saba joined Medicure from the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) in the Molecular Pathobiology Department focusing on the host genetics involved in prion pathobiology. Reuben Saba obtained his M.Sc. and Ph.D. at the University of Manitoba and did further post-doctoral training at the Interdisciplinary Center for Neurosciences (IZN) at the University of Heidelberg (Heidelberg, Germany).
Reuben Saba began his tenure at Medicure as a Medical Science Liaison in the U.S. Midwest Regions and was appointed Regional Medical Affairs Manager in 2015 for the US Midwest and Northeast regions. Reuben Saba was appointed to Director of Medical Affairs, Medical Information and Medical-Technical Marketing in 2019. Reuben was appointed Vice President of Scientific and Medical Affairs in July 2019 and in 2021 moved into his current role he holds today.
Why did you move from academia to industry?
When in academia, it is often noted that industry is the "dark side". I believe those who call it that don't know about it all too well. With that said, I didn't want to be one of those people who didn't know about an equally important side of science and innovation. Ultimately, it was a conscious decision to explore a side I didn't have too much understanding of but that I felt I had the aptitude to make a meaningful impact.
Do you miss anything about working from the lab bench?
Apart from the friendships formed, not really.
Mainly because I employ all the skill sets, I learned in academia in my current position. So, there was nothing for me to miss.
What was it like to work for Medicure during the 'Aggrastat Growth Phase"?
The growth phase of Aggrastat (tirofiban hydrochloride) injection was an interesting and rewarding period as there was opportunity at every turn.
My strategy during the growth phase was to work with as many strategic hospitals and healthcare providers (HCPs) as possible so I had opportunities at every phase of adoption of our therapy. Additionally, I would employ what I learned from each opportunity towards the next to ensure best practices were propagated.
Ultimately, what I discovered during the growth phase of Aggrastat was that success was directly correlated to the effort you put in.
Why do you think we were so successful in growing Aggrastat?
We were successful with Aggrastat as we were bringing to market a valuable pharmacotherapy that is widely used at a cost-effective price - which is a winning combination and unheard of in industry.
Additionally, we were (and are) still offering services that are not routinely offered by other pharmaceutical manufacturers when it comes to education and support which is essential for proper adoption of a therapy.
What did you enjoy most about interacting with healthcare providers?
I enjoyed learning about their practice or hospital practice, the most, when it came to Acute Coronary Syndrome (ACS) strategies and how our therapy fits into their overall protocol, if at all.
Thankfully, our therapy and the overall class of drugs, was an essential component of many hospital protocols. From there, starting a line of communication on how we can bring value to them was another enjoyable component. Once you build that connection and trust with a provider or hospital, working with them was relatively easy.
The greatest enjoyment for me was when an HCP would reach out to me for a question about our products, or assistance incorporating Aggrastat into their ACS protocol. They are trusting us to educate the other stakeholders on our therapy.
What was the biggest learning experience so far for you since launching Zypitamag (pitavastatin) tablets?
The biggest learning experience for me was that I assumed that if a particular medication is needed by a patient, then it can be accessed. However, this is certainly not the case – it's far from it. There are many factors prohibiting access to lifesaving medication in the U.S. and most, if not all, is influenced by cost.
So, our approach to launching and commercializing Zypitamag was to reduce the barriers to access, such as cost.
How does your current role help the Medicure business?
My current role enables me to keep a pulse on the broader industry and identify strategic opportunities and partnerships that can be a benefit for Medicure and its subsidiaries.
These opportunities are for the short term and long-term vision of Medicure.
What are you most excited about for Medicure in the future?
Medicure is a vertically integrated pharmaceutical company that operates at many levels including R&D, manufacturing and commercialization. More recently, we entered the direct-to-consumer channel with Marley Drug. There are developments at each level that excite me.
If there was one particular area that excites me the most, then it would have to be the infrastructure we have developed around our direct-to-consumer channel and the launch of our digital pharmacy – marleydrug.com.
The infrastructure we have developed can eliminate a patient's need to ever step foot in an actual brick and mortar pharmacy. The entire process can be done on-line: issuance of the prescription, ordering the medication, filling (and refilling) the prescription, monitoring refills, and ultimately, scheduling the delivery of the prescription.
Depending on the customer's location, prescriptions could be issued, filled and delivered in only a few days.
How do you give back to the community you live in?
At Medicure, we believe in the power of the communities we create and serve, our community of team members, and in giving back to the communities we live in.
One of the ways I give back to the community and trying to maximize my impact is by being on the board of the Bioscience Association of Manitoba (BAM) whose mission is to advance positive socio-economic benefits by fostering connections and innovation, expanding the sector's skills and workforce development, and being the unified voice for all of Manitoba's bioscience stakeholders.
Recently, I took on a more executive role as the Vice-Chair and it has been a privilege to serve on the Board of BAM which cultivates a vital and thriving bioscience community in Manitoba.