Country Report: Denmark and Sweden

Aug 01, 2013
By Pharmaceutical Executive Editors

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On the Northern fringes of Europe, those who want to believe that there is a sustainable future for the old continent's generous healthcare systems find a beacon of hope.

At a time when the healthcare systems of most of the European Union's member states are going through their biggest existential crisis in post-war history, the Nordics (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden) maintain sustainable yet technologically advanced healthcare systems.

Furthermore, the region's most populous nations (and the focus of this report), Sweden and Denmark, have made impressive contributions to the world's life sciences industry.

Denmark, a country of 5.6 million, brought the world such pharmaceutical champions as Novo Nordisk, Lundbeck, Leo Pharma, and ALK. Sweden, population of 9.5 million, grooms a thriving life sciences industry while its pharmaceutical market, the largest in the region, is often considered the barometer of Europe due to its progressive nature.

Denmark and Sweden coming out on top amid fierce competition, despite their modest populations, is often ascribed to the 'Nordic model.' This slightly undefined concept refers to a consensus-based model with a focus on sustainability and high levels of trust and cooperation between government and industry. Is the 'Nordic model' really the key explanation behind the remarkable success of the Danish and Swedish life sciences industry?


Zinta Krumins, Managing Director Nordics, Boehringer Ingelheim
"The Nordic region—the 'quiet North' as it could have been called—counterbalances the turbulence in Southern Europe," said Zinta Krumins, managing director Nordics, Boehringer Ingelheim, when asked about the relevance of the Nordics to the company. "The Nordics are a very stable region, with small but reasonable growth prospects, very good government structures and frameworks, social infrastructure and a solid ­economy."

Stig Jørgensen, CEO, Medicon Valley Alliance
Although attractive for their stable economies and governments, the Nordics do not have numbers on their side. "We cannot compete in terms of volume and economy of scale," said Stig Jørgensen, CEO of Medicon Valley Alliance, a network organization representing human life sciences in Medicon Valley, a region spanning eastern Denmark and south-western Sweden.

Dorthe Mikkelsen, Senior Vice-President Mid-Europe 2, MSD
Thus, the countries need to work together in order to increase their leverage. "Other countries often have an individualistic mindset and their culture revolves around competing with each other," Jørgensen continued. "Our collective culture enables us to unite doctors, engineers, and business people to work together. All these disciplines collaborating and working in the same domain is where innovation will flourish."

Mary Di Marzio, General Manager Nordics, Shire Plc
With Sweden and Denmark taking spot one and three respectively on the European Commission's Innovation Union Scoreboard 2013, it is hard to argue against the effectiveness of the model.

Biotech as Business—the Bavarian Nordic story
For instance, both Sweden and Denmark are overrepresented in clinical trials. MSD conducts about 10 percent of all its clinical trials in the Nordic region. "The attractiveness of the Nordics is a health care system that is state of the art, with strong medical professionals, a high level of scientific leaders both at the universities and at the clinics, and an overall strong infrastructure for clinical research," said Dorthe Mikkelsen, Senior Vice-President Mid-Europe 2, MSD. Furthermore, the Nordics offer a good data foundation. "Their registries are a goldmine for doing research and developing new products," Mikkelsen said.

Pia Olsen Dyhr, Minister of Trade & Investment, Denmark
Clinical trials are also seen as another avenue for innovation, with many companies breaking out of the traditional sales model. "We see clinical trials as a positive way to collaborate with health care professionals," Tommy Söderman, general manager Nordics, IPSEN, said. "In the Nordics we have many of our own initiatives; for example, we are running clinical trials on rehab patients recovering from strokes at 30 sites in the Nordic region."

Christian Dyvig, CEO, Lundbeck Foundation
The two countries are also a goldmine for acquisitions. Shire Plc recently acquired Swedish biotech Premacure, a biotech developing a therapy for the prevention of retinopathy of prematurity, currently in Phase II.

Anders Hedegaard, CEO of Bavarian Nordic
"Before Premacure became part of Shire, the company was already surrounded by an environment that ­allowed them to invest, explore and discover, which we then found was a good fit for us. Sweden provides an environment in which government incentivizes companies to be innovative and rewards innovation with favorable taxation," said Mary Di Marzio, General Manager Nordics with Shire Plc. "That is at the core of what the Nordic nations are encouraged to do and are rewarded for doing."

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