HIGH RISK, HIGH REWARD
Already the only country outside the CIS with an FTA with Russia, Serbia, as an export-oriented nation, has high expectations
for potential EU accession. "I strongly believe that EU integration will play a very positive role," agrees Dejan Sencanski,
AstraZeneca's country manager for Serbia, Montenegro, Albania, and Macedonia. For Sencanski, accession will send a strong
message to politicians to fully exploit the pharmaceutical growth areas through avenues such as the country's vast potential
for clinical trials. "There is a lot of potential to do clinical trials here," the local head of the UK-headquartered MNC
concludes. "I believe that the main hope for change is the process of Serbia becoming a member of the EU," concurs Bojan Trkulja,
managing director of the Innovative Drugs Manufacturers Fund (INOVIA), Serbia's leading association for MNCs. "Serbia is a
market where there is a lot of space for new companies to expand and try to find better positions, because nothing is set
in stone. Even in the pharma industry, almost all the major players are in Serbia. There is still a lot of space in the market
for them to position themselves," Trkulja finds.
Bojan Trkulja, Managing Director of Inovia
Very few MNCs are better positioned in the Serbian market today than the Danish Novo Nordisk. Predrag Radoševic, general manager
of Novo Nordisk in Serbia, believes that the company's 85% share of the Serbian insulin market can be explained by the fact
that the company was present in the market in the 1990s, through a cooperation agreement with local manufacturer Hemofarm.
When NATO intervened in Serbia in 1999, Novo Nordisk took the unusual decision to remain in the country to become Serbia's
sole insulin provider. As a result, Serbia is the only country outside of Denmark where Novo Nordisk enjoys such a high market
share. In 2002-2003, the company restructured and Radoševic took on the position as general manager. He explains that learning
from other countries in the region was extremely useful to him at this time. "In those early days, I relied a lot on the knowledge
and experience of our neighboring countries, because everything that was happening in Serbia had already happened there in
the years previous. It was an excellent opportunity to avoid mistakes, take advantage of their experiences, and approach things
in an organized way," he says.
Predrag Radosevic, GM of Novo Nordisk
Indeed, Trkulja of INOVIA supports the argument that companies have found Serbia so attractive since the market opened up
at the beginning of the new decade. Compared to other European countries and even countries in the Balkan region, Serbia's
lack of development has left large room for growth and expansion. "Serbia experienced very strong growth in the years before
the financial crisis, and although the country's recovery is happening a little slower than in more developed countries, today's
data suggests that Serbia is starting to rally. I strongly believe that we are now in a position where we will see large growth
in the years to come," Trkulja asserts. There is indeed plenty of data that supports the openness of the Serbian market for
drugs of foreign producers. The country's Minister of Health, Zoran Stankovic, adds in a public statement that "there are
4,000 pharmaceuticals licensed to trade, which are produced by over 300 different producers. From the aforementioned number
of pharmaceuticals, about 2,500 are produced by foreign producers."
Nenad Ognjenovic, GM of Galenika
The growing trend of cost-containment measures across Europe has led companies to focus harder on the long-term future of
healthcare. Many, including Zoran Labudovic, general manager of Pfizer Serbia, believe that copayment will play a larger role
in the future of European healthcare. Labudovic believes that in Serbia, this leaves a lot of room for growth. "Pfizer has
prospered in Serbia because of the potential of the country, which is apparent from the size of the population and the country's
attitude toward paying for healthcare out of pocket. Despite the fact that Slovenia and Croatia are much richer countries,
the fact is that their populations are not in the habit of paying for healthcare. This is due to the fact that during sanctions,
Serbians got used to the idea that in order to have access to certain medicines they needed to pay. This provides a good basis
for the future," Labudovic explains.