Though far from the largest pharma market in Europe, Sweden nevertheless holds strategic importance for global pharma; from the country’s attitude to public health to its sophisticated digital framework, comprehensive patient registries and innovative spirit. Here, four pharma country managers hailing from outside Sweden’s borders give their first impressions of the market.
Healthcare as a Right
Amy van Buskirk, Roche
Healthcare is a right in Sweden, whereas in the United States it is not
American-born Amy van Buskirk took on the role of general manager at Roche Sweden in August 2018, her first position outside the United States. Having previously worked in the US life sciences industry at Genentech, van Buskirk has observed major differences in how the two countries approach healthcare.
As van Buskirk told PharmaBoardroom, “Understanding the key differences between the US and Swedish healthcare systems has been a learning experience for me. A major inspiration has been the commitment to equality within the Swedish healthcare system. Healthcare is a right in Sweden, whereas in the United States it is not. Personally, this is something I am very passionate about and it inspires me to think about how we can serve as many people as possible, because every single person has a fundamental right to healthcare. It has been a great opportunity to learn about a system that is working to meet those goals and aspirations.”
Sophisticated; Digital; Data-Driven
Andrea Sambatti, Boehringer Ingelheim
The quality and amount of data contained in [Sweden’s patient] registers is unmatched
Andrea Sambatti has extensive global experience at Boehringer Ingelheim, having started out in her native Brazil and spent four years as a global team leader in Germany. Now president and CEO of Boehringer Ingelheim Canada since August 2019, Sambatti was previously general manager of Boehringer Ingelheim Sweden for over two years.
When we spoke with Sambatti in the latter role earlier in 2019 she was keen to highlight Sweden’s sophistication in data and digitalization. “Sweden has a sophisticated healthcare system and is a frontrunner in digitalization. As such, Sweden is used as a testing ground for pilot products and is one of the first countries where we launch products.”
Sambatti continued, “A major differentiating factor Sweden has to offer is its quality registries that contain a plethora of useful data. For instance, the National Diabetes Register has information on more than 90 percent of all diabetics in the country, which provides an amazing opportunity to improve the quality of care for patients. Additionally, this information helps us to design better protocols for clinical trials and provide good data for research. The quality and amount of data contained in the registers is unmatched compared to most other countries.”
Collaboration and Innovation
Iddo Leshem, BMS
What I find most impressive in the Swedish ecosystem is the unique culture of collaboration and innovation
Israeli Iddo Leshem began his career at Bristol Myers Squibb (BMS) in Tel Aviv. After five years as country manager in Israel, Leshem transitioned to the US to work as hematology strategy and operations director, before becoming global lead for the company’s blockbuster immunotherapy, Opdivo. Leshem was appointed general manager of the Nordics region, which includes Denmark, Sweden and Norway, in November 2017.
Sweden’s uniquely collaborative and innovation-led nature has stood out to Leshem. He told PharmaBoardroom, “What I find most impressive in the Swedish ecosystem is the unique culture of collaboration and innovation. That culture can be seen and felt across the system’s entire spectrum, including access to innovative medicines, the development of future assets through clinical trials, Precision Medicine research projects and more. Moreover, wherever I have worked in the past, including in Asia, I have never seen the industry being as well-respected and engaged as it is in Sweden. Here the industry is regularly invited to the table to voice its perspectives and help shape the system to best serve its patients.”
Leshem continued, “On another note, before I came to Sweden, I was told that Swedish people have a religious attachment to work-life balance, somehow implying that employees do not value their work. I was also led to believe that decisions are always taken and implemented on a consensus-based approach. However, my experience here has shattered these preconceived stereotypes. What I encountered is a workforce that is dedicated to their work and tackles challenges head-on. With that level of commitment, the fact that work-life balance is embedded in the culture is a clear strength and enables a more sustainable equilibrium.”
Tomer Feffer, Bayer
Swedish people are eager to change the world, not only in healthcare, but in all other industries
Tomer Feffer also hails from Israel and has deep experience in his home country’s pharma sector, serving as CEO of Bayer Israel from 2011 to 2018. Having recently completed his first year as CEO of Bayer Sweden, Feffer has been astounded by the culture of innovation that is prevalent in the nation.
Reflecting on Sweden’s innovative nature, Feffer admitted, “While I knew Sweden was a very innovative country, I did not realize how true it was until I moved here. When you live in Stockholm, you can feel this innovative spirit everywhere. Swedish people are eager to change the world, not only in healthcare, but in all other industries. More importantly, they are innovating with a social purpose, which is not necessarily the case in other countries.”
He continued, “Moreover, not only are Swedish people innovative in terms of ideas, but they also know how to execute. The culture of achieving consensus and working collaboratively is one of the key success factors that allow Swedish start-up companies to take basic ideas in the lab into reality for the benefit of society.”
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