My vision as CEO is simple: Doing good and providing access to high quality medicine to the world’s 7 billion people…
One is bound to attract much attention – both due & undue – if
one happens to be the child of a senator as it is. And, if one is a
successful one at that, then one’s pain from such un-called for
attention – often criticism, can take its toll on the person. But,
Heather Bresch, the boss of one of the world’s leading pharma
power-houses, Mylan, has seen it all in her 20-year long career with the
giant in 15 varied positions, and knows exactly how to handle it and,
answer it in her own way. Beyond all this, if one is willing to see
through the lines (published & spoken about her on how she may have
been the beneficiary of her father’s position & political clout),
one will find that Bresch is an able professional, and the leader that
is now surfacing was already in there --the first woman to lead a
Fortune 500 pharmaceutical company-- something that she may have
actually inherited from her father. She has earned the respect of her
fellow employees, the industry, and external stakeholders because of her
passionate and visionary leadership, a work ethic that is second to
none, and her track record of driving operational excellence through the
organization and getting results. And, she is the first woman to lead a
Fortune 500 pharmaceutical company, to boot!
Over and above all this, what she has achieved and what she has been
able to facilitate -- easy access to many life-saving drugs to the
people of the world, especially the U.S. consumers, regardless of with
or without her father’s weight behind her, will forever be known as the
outstanding work of this truly remarkable lady.
Bresch is the daughter of U.S. Senator and former West Virginia
Governor, Joe Manchin, who himself hails from an Italian-American
family. The culture of the family -- in Heather’s words -- of boys being
somehow entitled to all the opportunities, left the girls to create
their own opportunities if they wanted to succeed professionally. But
Heather, being the strong personality that she is, rebelled. After
graduating from West Virginia University with a degree in International
Studies and Political Science in 1991, she moved to California, where
she thought she would get the space to figure her own path – away from
the stereotypical traditions of her family.
That brief digression did not work out the way she had imagined, so
she came back to her home state to seek opportunities. By this time her
businessman father had risen to become the senator from the state of
West Virginia and, naturally, like all doting fathers, he also was a
little anxious as to what is to be made of his dear daughter.
The unlikely spark that showed the path
Well he did not quite know what would be in store for his daughter
but he did one thing, so very serendipitously, for her. He ran into the
co-founder and then CEO of Mylan Inc, Mike Puskar, during the course of a
basketball match they both had been to see. Apparently, he casually
mentioned to Puskar that his daughter was back in the state and seeking
an employment opportunity, and sought to know if he could do something
about it. Reportedly, Mike Puskar promptly got his team to hand Heather
her first job.
But the job offered was not to Heather’s liking. She was asked to
take up the data entry operator’s role in the quality control department
of the company , where her primary responsibility was to type-up
stickers on products that she could not even pronounce the names of, in
the basement of the manufacturing building. Especially not, when she had
quite a few other opportunities that were in line with her educational
qualifications & interests.
She initially declined to take the offer. But, like they say, elders’
wisdom, if paid heed to, more often than not is useful. So it was her
father, who almost coaxed Heather into giving it a try for at least a
year, as being the visionary himself, he knew the company was on the
path of wonderful growth.
And, out of her own admission, that was perhaps the one and only time
she had been the dutiful daughter. She took it up and, in the decade
that followed, learned the industry inside-out, of which she knew
nothing of to begin with, and discovered that there were many intrinsic
problems which she could help the company address.
Rise through the ranks
Her detractors continue to crib but none can take away the fact that
she had stayed loyal & faithful to both her profession and the
company. So, it was, that after 10 years of service & understanding
the nitty-gritty of the business Mylan delved in, she was promoted as
Director of business development in 2001.
She was then made Director of Government Relations the following year
(March 2002), in which post she served up to February 2004, when she was
further elevated to the post of Vice President of Public and Government
Relations of Mylan (from February 2004 to April 2005).
Her rise up the leadership ladder was really picking up speed in the
2000s, and unsurprisingly, she went on to become the Vice President of
Strategic Corporate Development of Mylan, Inc (May 2005 to February
Bresch was able to stamp her persona on Mylan, which was created
largely on the basis of her understanding of the purpose of Mylan’s
business as one that was to be – net-net- in the interest of people more
than anybody else. More so the U.S. people.
When she was moved up to a position of authority where she could
exercise her power to do things that she really wanted to do for the
company as well as the people, she did them without fear or much
Bresch played a vital role in the passage of the 2003 Medicare
Modernization Act, a congressional revision to the Hatch-Waxman Act of
1984, which helped to ensure consumer access to affordable
That besides, as is known, and reported often, Bresch has been a
leading advocate for one quality standard for all drugs sold in the U.S.
Accordingly, her strong lobbying proved to be instrumental in the
development of the Generic Drug User Fee Act. She also advocated for
changes to the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act of 1938 to arm the
U.S. Food and Drug Administration with the resources and authority to
regularly inspect U.S. and foreign plants at the same rate, both of
which were included in the Food and Drug Administration Safety and
Innovation Act (FDASIA).
She even testified before the U.S. House of Representatives'
Committee on Energy and Commerce in relation to drug supply chain
integrity, drug shortages and the Generic Industry's Drug User Fee
Her next claim to fame came when, as the chief operating officer and
chief integration officer of Mylan, she lead the successful integration
of two transformational and game-changing international acquisitions –
Matrix Laboratories and Merck KGaA’s generics business.
One is bound to be in the eye of storm if one is even remotely
connected with the power-circles. The propensity of people to denounce
anyone who is successful and also, co-incidentally, related to a famous
personality, has been much talked about. But, as they say, there is no
smoke without fire, the controversy relating to Bresch being awarded an
MBA degree without having completed the required credits, is only
discernible. It will be unfair to all concerned to comment here one way
or the other as both, Bresch & the University, seem to be in denial
mode, and until the truth comes out, it is better to keep a lid on the
issue – as her M.B.A. degree, for all practical purposes, is almost
inconsequential to her role as the leader of the $6 billion pharma
Bresch has served two consecutive terms as chairman of the Generic Pharmaceutical Association and one term as its vice chairman.
Activism - The social entrepreneur?
Bresch’s key policy priorities have included working extensively to
ensure that everyone living with HIV/AIDS has access to treatment and,
not only that, advocating for treatment soon after diagnosis to ensure
better health outcomes, reduce HIV transmissions and create long-term
cost savings, have also bear the Heather Bresch mark on them. As part of
this effort, she worked to bring the necessary attention to issues in
developing countries for patients in need of antiretroviral (ARV)
treatment for HIV/AIDS. Further, she has helped position Mylan as a
leader in the development and manufacture of ARVs. Today, approximately
one out of three people in the developing world is reportedly being
treated for HIV/AIDS depends on a Mylan ARV product.
|Honors & Accolades
||Named one of Fortune's "50 Most Powerful Women in Business" in 2012.
||Named “Patriot of
the Year” by Esquire Magazine in 2011, for her work which led to the
passage of the FDA Safety and Innovation Act - legislation which will
require foreign drugmakers that sell product in the U.S. to pay for
regular facility inspections to support the FDA's efforts to continue
ensuring drug safety for all U.S. consumers.
||Named one of Pharmaceutical Executive's "Emerging Pharma Leaders 2011."
||Named one of the top women in the global pharmaceutical industry by FiercePharma, in 2009.
My vision as CEO is simple: to do good and do well at the same time by
providing access to high quality medicine to the world’s 7 billion
Growing up in a great Italian family helped make me who I am today and I
cherish those traditions. Fairmont and Farmington have always been hubs
for my family. If my dad had his way, we’d all live together in the
same house. We are all about getting together—and it is always centered
I have 12 first cousins and half of them are women. What always
frustrated me was that the family believed that the boys were somehow
entitled to all the opportunities, which left the girls to create their
own opportunities if they wanted to succeed professionally. I wanted all
of us to be treated equally.
I didn’t see any reason to overlook the potential of half the talent
pool in the family! I was fortunate to have a strong-minded mother who
supported the idea of women being independent, which gave me the
confidence I needed to pursue my ambitions.
I don’t deny that I got my first job at Mylan because of my dad. At the
time, I knew who Mike Puskar was by name, and I knew he had a company
called Mylan, but I couldn’t have told you what Mylan did. I vaguely
knew it had something to do with science.
We have a very open family. All issues were always on the table. But I
learned early on the good and bad of politics and the challenges of
facing personal setbacks in the public eye.
I pursued my Master’s for personal enrichment, not because I needed it
to further my career, and I believe I did what I needed to do to earn my
degree. I couldn’t get sucked into all the drama. I had to put the
interests of Mylan first and continue to do my job. I had a
multi-billion dollar company to help run and I was responsible for
integrating the acquisition of a company two times our size. The only
way I could prove the critics wrong and overcome this was to be
successful. Did it hurt? Sure. Do I hate that this happened at the
institution that I dearly love? Yes. People will hold on to what they
want to hold on to. But I had to keep persevering. I needed to focus on
growing Mylan and moving forward, and that is what I’ve done.
|| For me there’s just work and family. There’s nothing in the middle. There is no exact balance—it is a juggling act
Cooking is a form of stress relief for me. I love being in the kitchen.
Come Saturday, I start my mornings off thinking, ‘What am I going to
cook tonight?’ Having my family around the dinner table is one of my
favorite things. When I’m home, that’s what I am focused on |