Life as an in-house lawyer in the pharmaceutical industry is full of ambiguity. After all, it is one of the most heavily regulated and highly scrutinized industries on earth. Roberta Loomar is the senior vice president and general counsel of Apotex Corp’s operations in Latin America and the United States. It’s a big job, but Loomar is up for the challenge. After all, she’s navigated new areas and unprecedented obstacles throughout her entire career.
How does a leader in the healthcare, wellness, or pharmaceutical space deal with the occupational hazards that threaten to slow or even derail a career? By maintaining an openness to learning new things and embracing change.
“My whole career has been defined by people coming to me and presenting something new, unique, or unusual that needs to be done,” the SVP says. “I’ve had no choice but to figure out innovative solutions and figure out a way to address emerging problems in effective ways,” she says.
The South Florida native majored in communications at her state university. She thought she would become a sports broadcaster and maybe a sports lawyer. But an epiphany at the University of Miami School of Law put her on a new path. After Loomar discovered that she loved trial work, she sought employment at a small insurance defense firm where she would get foundational, hands-on experience trying cases in court.
She soon joined an international firm, and although she had never studied finance or taken an accounting course, she was defending some of the biggest accounting firms in the world.
A former colleague recruited Loomar to join Andrx Corporation as litigation counsel in 2000. Again, she gave herself a crash course in a new area—this time chemistry and patents—to litigate patent infringement matters. Over time, Loomar broadened into a generalist, developed her industry expertise, served as a privacy officer, and created a robust compliance program.
In 2013, Roberta Loomar joined Apotex to build the international pharmaceutical company’s in-house legal department in the United States. The move allowed her to stay in Florida while supporting the organization founded in Canada in 1974. Loomar has also served as Apotex’s compliance officer.
Although Roberta Loomar has been practicing law for more than three decades, she is still finding ways to stay endlessly engaged and fulfilled in the dynamic industry of prescription drugs. “You learn something new every day as an in-house attorney working in pharmaceuticals. There are always new developments, requirements, and laws to adjust to,” she says.
When Loomar first arrived on the scene, Apotex was coming out of an import ban imposed on the company by the US Food & Drug Administration after the agency found problems at its Canadian manufacturing plants. With the ban lifted, Loomar helped guide Apotex’s efforts to rebuild its presence in the United States. The generics producer initially turned to affiliates and third parties to manufacture the products it distributes in the US before returning to manufacturing in Canada.
In 2017, an unexpected tragedy halted the company’s rise. The body of the Apotex’s billionaire founder Barry Sherman was discovered alongside that of his wife Honey inside their Toronto mansion. The gruesome double murder remains unsolved five years later.
That set Apotex on a new path. The company, buoyed by what Loomar says are “great leaders that promote transparency, collaboration, respect, and recognition,” introduced several new products. Teams optimized operations and product portfolios to both cut expenses and increase efficiencies. Additionally, the various Apotex legal teams put new procedures and policies in place to guide the new leadership, get new agreements in place, generate profitable sales, and help the company respond. As a result, Apotex thrived.
Loomar tackled another formidable challenge as she helped Apotex resolve investigations related to price fixing in the generic drug industry.
Through a transformation that lasted three years, as well as success in navigating COVID-19 over the past two years, Apotex attracted the attention of SK Capital. The private investment firm has signed a deal to buy Apotex’s entire operation. The agreement is subject to regulatory approval.
Today, Roberta Loomar is busy helping Apotex prepare for its major upcoming transition. She also continues to stay updated on changes in various jurisdictions and issues for her teams in the US and Latin America.
She is always prepared to advise on matters related to rules, laws, regulations, and agreements from the FDA, clients, partners, and other parties. The variation keeps her on her toes. To others aspiring to find success in the challenging space, Roberta Loomar’s advice is rather simple.
“You can’t get intimidated by what you don’t know because you’re going to encounter something you don’t know nearly every day in a role and industry like this,” she says. “Believe in yourself and know that you can figure it out and get the job done.”
Foley advises healthcare and life sciences companies throughout their lifecycles. These companies require assistance to navigate accelerating digital technologies and shifting regulatory and IP environments that complicate the development of tests, treatments, and business models. We provide business and legal solutions so you remain competitive in a constantly evolving market.