with Timmo Andersen, Managing Director, Boehringer Ingelheim Denmark
After 10 years of working with MSD, one of the top pharmaceutical companies in the world, what brought you here to Boehringer Ingelheim?
Two key things brought me to this company. The opportunity to run the business the way I wanted to run it, since with the current challenges that the industry is facing I wanted to address things differently (which I couldn’t completely do in my previous management position) was a big factor in my joining Boehringer Ingelheim. Secondly, the great pipeline and products that the company has – products like Pradaxa are the best of its kind with innovation in an area where there hasn’t been any novelty in 50 years. Therefore, I wanted to be part of its introduction.
After heading the operations for over 2 years, where had the growth come from and what have been the main milestones?
The single biggest milestone has been the launch of our new innovative oral anticoagulant Pradaxa in August 2011. We have concerted most of our efforts in refocusing the organisation and basically realigning everything towards its launch. We put the right people into the Pradaxa team and realigned the force in new skill sets, such as: key account management, targeting & segmentation and digital integration. This strategy enabled us to ramp the launch of Pradaxa and I am proud to say that our subsidiary has succeeded in the second best launch of Pradaxa worldwide, and the best in Europe.
What country was the best worldwide?
New Zealand. But Pradaxa was more or less introduced by law there, so naturally it is tough to compete with those conditions. However, we beat all the countries in Europe and in terms of market penetration, we are beating the US and Canada. For us, these are very good achievements and an eye opener for the organisation in Denmark to further execute.
Despite the success of Pradaxa in Denmark, at the end of the day we have to face the fact Denmark is a small market, with just over 5 million people. So, what is the appeal of having operations in Denmark and what is the contribution that the country makes to Boehringer Ingelheim in a global setting?
Although we are a very small nation, we are still a country with relatively fast access to new medicines, which is good learning ground. For instance, given all we have learned with the successful launch of Pradaxa, (compared to other countries we launched six to eight months earlier,) gave us the opportunity to travel around Europe and share with our BI colleagues the best practices, as well as all the do’s and dont’s.
Furthermore, our small size gives us a lot of flexibility and the speed with which we can adjust is much higher. We only have two or three layers here, so our flat, informal communication structure is extremely fast. There is no power distance as there is in larger markets, so decisions can be made very quickly.
In brief, we can share our learning and we can adapt fast. We also have a very good test market for global campaigns, since it is easy for our team to roll out campaigns in a fast and efficient way, which can serve as an example to the company, globally.
On the other hand, one of the largest contributions that we are involved in right now is digital integration, in terms of piloting and driving the whole digital transition. This is not only just for marketing, but also for clinical trials. For the whole digitalisation process we try to remove as much paper as we can in our interactions with our customers.
What is still the attraction of being in a mature market like Denmark? Isn’t it a little bit frustrating sometimes when you hear that your colleague in emerging markets are growing double digits?
I think the attraction and the most interesting part about being in a mature market is the complexity level and the skill set you have; you can be extremely successful in an emerging market if you are hard core, good marketer. On the other hand, in a mature market those skills will not get you anywhere, since here it is more about market development. Emerging markets are growing more or less by themselves. But here, market development means policy-making, integrating the national healthcare with the regional healthcare system; essentially, it is reintegrating the scientific community with the general practitioner community and getting them aligned. Being able to address those issues is a totally different job than the one of a marketer.
As you said earlier, of course the Pharmaceutical industry has changed due to the economical crash, the patent cliff, competitions of generics, tighter health care systems, etc. Under this context companies are trying to reinvent themselves. How have you, or how has Boehringer Ingelheim reinvented itself?
I believe that we have not reinvented ourselves enough. However, the positive part is that we have a remarkable set of products, new launches and a great pipeline. In the global setting, these are good years, these are the years where we should use all the positive momentum we have in successful launches and new products to change the way we do things, instead of sticking to the same old model. That’s what we’re trying to do here, just around the time we launched Pradaxa and Trajenta we decided to make some changes and I shifted 45 percent of my primary care resources into other resources like digital marketing, market access, project management, projects where we do databases, projects with clinics and patient associations.
Another thing that we are trying to do differently is that now when we have a product that our customers are interested in, we try to integrate them into our digital world to enhance and strengthen our customer engagement.
To sum up, in order to change we are focusing on three main things: much better integrated market access, more private partnership and the digital integration. We are undertaking all these initiatives, since the time for transition is now.
What are your ambitions for the next five years?
Financially, to keep outgrowing the market; we have done that ever since I’ve been here. We have been gaining market shares and I want to keep it this way for the next five years. I would also like to make a big penetration in oncology and make some disruption in that niche. Whether that be in alternative collaboration strategies on studies, whether it will be on pricing collaborations— we will see, but we come with excellent products and we need to take the opportunity to make a disruption and see what happens. I want to prove we can launch chronic care products without a massive field force, which is precisely why I cut it in half last year and invested in alligning primary care and secondary care. If we can get the specialist to do the right thing, and have them communicate and translate that to the GPs, our success will be easier. My ambition is that with the current field force level, we will prove to be extremely successful and that in the long term no more than half of our interactions with primary care customers will be done face to face.
Apart of your commercial activities, are you doing any clinical trials here?
We do many clinical trials. I believe we have the third largest regional clinical trial unit in Boehringer Ingelheim; all combined, there are US, Germany and then the Nordics. I think you will learn that from other companies as well, clinical trial activity is very high in Denmark and in a way this has been possible thanks to the database integration. In this country it is extremely easy to screen for patients; we have national databases in Diabetes, Oncology; hence doing feasibility studies is great since you can call a hospital asking how many patients they have, in what stage, etc., and they can give you all this information just by tapping into a detailed database.
What is so fascinating, or why is Boehringer Ingelheim such a good place to work?
We are very transparent, everybody knows what we want to achieve and we have very clear priorities. This link to the speed and the trust enables people to raise their issues and get a honest answer, as well as the respect that all of us have for each other makes us a great company.
Do you think being a family owned company helps with that?
I don’t think a lot about that, however for the people that have been here for a longer time it means a lot more; the familiarity, the long term thinking. This company has changed over the last ten years. Collaborating with Pfizer took Boehringer from being a company out of Ingelheim, to a global one. Surviving the collaboration with Pfizer with 90 percent of the culture and integrrity intact, whilst getting some of the edge in the professionalism has really shaped this company.
After a thirteen-year tenure in the industry, what is the most rewarding aspect of working for an industry like Pharmaceuticals, which sometimes is put on the back burner?
Undoubtedly, the most rewarding aspect is working with doctors. They are intelligent, curious people that honestly want to do good.
However I understand that working here with doctors is difficult and you’re lucky if you see them four times a year.
Yes as you said, if you’re lucky. The relationship with the rep and the doctor has definitely changed. In the old days, which is no more than five to seven years ago, we could visit different doctors up to 10 times a year, during which we had a more personal relationships with them. Now we have to refocus our relationship to a more professional one.
There is a big difference between having a personal relationship and a professional one and the transition from one to another has been extremely difficult for some of the sales reps. For some it has been impossible.. Our job now is to have the ability to stay professional, identify value gaps and address them. We have to have the ability to deliver value and tools that can be applied, even though visits are limited to once of twice a year.
Mr. Anderson, what would you like to be your final message for our readers?
Denmark has the highest generic penetration, as soon as we go off patent probably 90 to 95 percent goes to a generic at an extremely low price. We highly welcome generic competition, since as innovators we should make the profits during the patent period allowing us to generate revenues for new investments into new innovations.
The emerging philosophy in Denmark is that generics are a good thing because the authorities cannot keep growing the budget. Under this context, a very good introduction of generics allows for innovation.