The Netherlands: Innovation through Collaboration - Pharmaceutical Executive


The Netherlands: Innovation through Collaboration

Pharmaceutical Executive


Alie Tigchelhoff, Managing Director, Utrecht Science Park
Greater connectivity between organization and market environment speaks to an overarching theme: Pharmaceutical companies are increasingly looking to move beyond product to solution; to become a total partner rather than just a supplier. Local industry executives almost unanimously agree that this will define the "new pharma" of tomorrow. "The long-term sustainability of the business will come through our ability to show that we are able to create solutions rather than just deliver a product," says Münster.

Local industry executives almost unanimously agree that this will define the new pharma of tomorrow. "Just a product is not enough. New pharma needs to be solution-oriented rather than focusing only on the pharmaceutical 'hardware'—that is, the product," says Münster. "On top of that, there should not be the slightest doubt that we will deliver top quality and that we are ready and able to ensure high standards. The long-term sustainability of the business will come through our ability to show that we are able to create solutions rather than just delivering a product." Partnering with the industry and reshaping organizational processes have played a large part in Novo Nordisk's success in the Netherlands. "Novo Nordisk wants to change diabetes, with products being just a part of the process," says Netherlands general manager Erik Lommerde. "If you want to be involved in diabetes care, the only right way forward is to become a complete stakeholder in the treatment process. It is also why we have been changing our organizational setup in ways that are probably not ideal for short-term commercial interests, but are ways that we believe are necessary in order to be a long-term partner in diabetes care on a local and regional level. For example, we have been setting up account managers with no commercial objectives." In practice, Novo Nordisk has the ambition to incentivize its representatives based on HBA1C indicators—a measurement of glycated hemoglobin in the blood, often considered one of the best ways to check for diabetes. In linking representatives with eventual HBA1C tests, Novo Nordisk's incentives would be "purely based on improvements in quality of care, not on how many products they sell," says Lommerde.


Comfortably growing between 3 and 5 percent in the Netherlands on the backs of overall market expansion and Victoza, its main driver, Novo Nordisk feels quite at home in the Netherlands. Despite its vast global presence spanning offices in 76 countries, the Netherlands is a role-model market for Novo Nordisk.

Curd Lejægere, Managing Director Benelux, Daiichi-Sankyo
"We are the 10th largest Novo Nordisk affiliate, so our absolute contribution to the group's performance is significant," according to Lommerde. "Generally speaking, we are typically ahead of the game in the Netherlands with a lot of new initiatives taking place here. Healthcare reforms happen in every country, of course, and are not specific to the Netherlands. But because we are smaller and industry players know each other a little bit better, some initiatives are very well organized and take place a bit faster here. For that reason I think that a good way for a company to get acquainted with new initiatives is to roll them out first in the Netherlands. This is also a cultural element of the Netherlands—we are eager to try new things and are not afraid to fail sometimes."

Not being afraid to fail has defined Actelion in the Netherlands. General manager Han Brouwer recalls the "ultimate entrepreneurial spirit" of starting the Netherlands-Benelux affiliate from nothing. "We did not have a product since it was not yet approved by the European Medicines Agency. I started from my garage and worked from my wooden desk with a 25-meter cable for my telephone," he recounts. From that rawness Actelion has leveraged the small Dutch landscape and its orphan drug portfolio to build and shape new pharmaceutical markets. "We are selling orphan drugs which make up a specialty market, with the dynamics being much different than traditional big pharmaceutical companies." Playing a different ballgame in a small market, a key component of Actelion's success is its unique relationship between talent and corporate strategy. This orphan drug business needs a different approach, which means that we have to look for unique people with different competency sets than most pharmaceutical companies. Whereas in traditional pharma most people are part of the system, we try to build the system around the competency set of individuals," say Brouwer.

With 12 affiliates throughout Europe, Daiichi-Sankyo has the largest presence of any Japanese pharmaceutical company in Europe. The company's European Group goal is to average 10 percent annual growth and €1.2 billion ($1.6 billion) in net sales by 2012. While the Big Five markets will clearly drive growth, the Netherlands carries a large weight in group performance when regionally clustered as a Benelux entity. Referring to Benelux's relative importance, Curd Lejaegere, Managing Director Benelux, Daiichi-Sankyo, notes that "the top five markets are responsible for more than 80 percent of that €1.2 billion goal, with the rest of the countries in Europe contributing to the other 20 percent. Within the region, however, Benelux is more than favorably competing with the UK and our turnover is in fact higher than theirs." In addition to turnover, the strength of the Benelux cluster offers advantages to the Daiichi-Sankyo Group and, by extension, serves as a model for any pharmaceutical company spreading across Europe. "Future affiliates, can learn from our experience in product-launching sequences. All of the countries lined up next to each other have launch sequences. Products can be spread all over Europe but you have to study how to implement them and extract the best lessons from the successes and failures, which is what we have gained considerable experience from in this region," he notes.


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