We recently analysed the contents of 20 interviews conducted with country managers at multinational pharma companies in Sweden and found some underlying words and themes present in the majority of the interviews (see above for the full wordcloud). This is an exclusive glimpse into what is currently at the top of the minds of pharma country managers in Sweden.


1. Data

[Sweden’s] Quality Registries are an incredible tool

Judith Love, Novartis

Sweden’s patient registry is one of the most advanced and comprehensive sets of electronic healthcare records in the world. The data contained in the registries dates back more than two centuries and contain intergenerational data that helps researchers make links to hereditary diseases, and pharmaceutical as well as tech companies consider the registries essential to their research efforts. Thanks to the comprehensive and detailed data sets, a Parkinson’s breakthrough was made in connecting the neurodegenerative disease with the gut and immune system. 

Novartis country manager Judith Love told us that, “The country’s Quality Registries are an incredible tool. This registry data, can identify patient populations, compare them, and identify trends that can accelerate diagnosis, treatment and ultimately mean that in the future personalized medicine may become more of a reality. In Sweden, there is a personal number for each individual, which can help bring different data sources together, so we can use machine learning and AI to direct health care resources better.”

Johan Wäborg, Nordics general manager for Actelion cited the benefits of the registries on digital and research efforts, “Two of the greatest assets of Swedish healthcare are the national quality registries and health registries that provide an unparalleled source of real-world evidence which will play an increasingly crucial role in drug development. The personal identification number enables linkage across databases on an individual level, a unique feature allowing the creation of unparalleled patient insight. Actelion leverages this incredible ecosystem through early launches of digital and R&D projects.”

MSD’s Jakob Tellgren highlighted the usefulness of quality register data in clinical trials: “Sweden and the Nordics have been crucial in generating data for our medicines. Sweden, in particular, presents an ideal controlled environment for performing high-quality clinical trials and real-world studies. The personal identification numbers allow us to track patients through time which is, of course, important when conducting clinical trials to prevent drop-out. Moreover, the national quality registries provide a wealth of information on treatment outcomes and allow to gather new insights by linking data from different registries.”


2. Collaboration

It is refreshing to see that brilliant ideas can come from all parts of the ecosystem

Michelle Werner, AstraZeneca

Sweden is a country that prides itself on having an innovative spirit and an ethic of collaboration. Newcomers to Sweden’s healthcare ecosystem often find themselves surprised and impressed by the country’s level of collaboration and innovation. Many pharma companies have strong collaborative ties with Karolinska Institute, Sweden’s top medical university and home of the Nobel Academy. The Karolinska Institute undertook a collaboration with Chiesi Pharmaceutical to develop a lung treatment for premature babies, which resulted in the lives of nearly one million babies in 97 countries being saved over 27 years.

Sweden’s life sciences sector prioritises not only collaboration within the country but also around the world. Swecare, an organisation dedicated to the growth of Swedish healthcare and life sciences, has a mission “to support active collaboration with other countries to foster co-creation and trade, but also to share Swedish experience and knowledge,” according to regional director Shampa Bari.

Michelle Werner, Nordics country president at AstraZeneca highlighted the company’s many strategic ties within Sweden: “A strong focus on collaboration can be felt everywhere, and it is refreshing to see that brilliant ideas can come from all parts of the ecosystem. AstraZeneca has over 200 collaborations in R&D alone here in Sweden, for example with the Karolinska Institutet and our BioVenture Hub at the Gothenburg R&D site.”

CSL Behring’s Martin Tenlen praised the Swedish ethic of cooperation, “There is a great sense of collaboration between all stakeholders in the medical field, including government, patient organizations, hospitals and the industry. This is a crucial advantage for Sweden, as we can come away with better solutions by cooperating. I also see many similarities when looking at countries like Norway, Denmark and Finland. These commonalities are leveraged to strengthen cross-country collaboration. By pooling our resources together, we can foster research and development to create more innovation.”

Pfizer Sweden actively seeks out collaboration with research organisations, biotechs, and startups. Pfizer general manager Malin Parkler elaborated, “The Pfizer group has since long collaborated with Karolinska University Hospital, as one of few places in the world for PET scan analysis. Another example of a strategic research collaboration is with BioInvent, a biotech company developing novel and first-in-class immuno-oncology therapies. Pfizer recognizes the innovative strength of the Swedish startup scene and is on the look-out for potential partnership opportunities. For instance, Pfizer’s global team searching for strategic collaborations always attends the Nordic Life Science Days to meet with promising companies.”


3. Access

Our aim is to continue to work with all stakeholders to secure access for products

Vatroslav Mateljic, Takeda

Patient access to medications is a key issue in Sweden, with which pharma country managers must continually wrestle. Collaboration with government agencies, healthcare systems and other life science companies, as shown above, is crucial in widening the net of access.

Roche Sweden general manager Amy Van Buskirk emphasized the importance of partnering to facilitate better patient access, “We are also partnering with reimbursement agencies centred around piloting innovative approaches in order to accelerate access to innovative medicines. Currently, we have a pilot on combination therapy and we have partnered with EUnetHTA in bringing two of our medicines far more quickly to patients. As an organization, we are working on partnering with the genetics side of the industry in order to advance precision medicine and accelerate the introduction of this capability so patients can have access to the right medicine at the right time.”

Vatroslav Mateljic, Takeda Sweden country manager, stated that the company’s focus is on advocating for rare disease patients in order to ensure these lesser-known diseases are able to be treated: “Our aim is to continue to work with all stakeholders to secure access for products, particularly for small patient groups in the rare diseases area, which have a high unmet medical need but may not be on the radar of the authorities yet.”

Merck Sweden’s Anders Wesslau contemplated the challenges in ensuring patient access within a fragmented healthcare system. “Denmark has been very successful in ensuring patient access to new and innovative oncology treatments throughout the country. Sweden has tried to follow the Danish model; however, it has been less successful due to the fragmentation of our regionalized healthcare system. This is a serious hurdle for our system in trying to achieve and maintain equal care in general, especially in oncology. Despite the plan of establishing central points of care for different treatment areas such as oncology, the autonomy of each region in the country is still blocking these efforts. We at Merck hope that there will be more movement in this area to achieve equal opportunity for care and faster access to new innovative treatments, as there is a serious need for this.”