Vatroslav, you have worked for most of your career in South Eastern Europe, for multinationals such as Abbott, AstraZeneca, and Takeda. Being appointed as GM of the Swedish affiliate six months ago, what have been your first observations in the country?

Sweden is a market that embraces innovation and pilot projects very quickly, creating an excellent environment for innovation partnerships. This leads to solutions that can later be scaled up in other developed markets and also applied in emerging countries.

Takeda has recently completed the acquisition of Shire, which had a large footprint in Sweden. What have you set out as your main priorities?

My priority is to successfully and quickly integrate Takeda and Shire in Sweden. Additionally, we aim to increase our presence in Sweden, improve the image and branding of Takeda, and become a true partner for all stakeholders in the country. The portfolios of both companies complement each other well, with Shire’s strength in rare diseases and neuroscience. Takeda has been undergoing a transformation journey towards specialty care, and together we are among the top ten pharmaceutical companies globally and in Sweden.

Takeda is focusing its R&D efforts on four therapeutic areas. What do you see as your most important growth drivers in Sweden?

We have a strong presence in gastroenterology (GI), oncology, neuroscience, rare diseases, and plasma-derived therapies. The merger of Takeda and Shire allows us to create synergies and strengthen our position. We have the ambition to become the leading global GI company by 2025, making it a key focus area in Sweden. Our selective areas of oncology are also performing well in the country. Additionally, neuroscience, particularly our portfolio for attention deficit and hyperactivity disorders, is a significant growth driver.

Oncology remains a priority for Takeda, as seen with the recent EMA approval of Alunbrig. With Sweden having the highest five-year survival rates for all cancers in the EU, do you feel there is still an appetite from authorities to embrace innovation in this field?

Alunbrig is one of our highly effective products for lung cancer treatment. The reimbursement process for this treatment was fast in Sweden, and the first patient was treated just ten days after EMA approval. This demonstrates the authorities’ willingness to embrace and reimburse innovative oncology products. We would like to see similar success stories in the future for cell and gene therapies. Our aim is to work with stakeholders to secure access for products, especially for small patient groups in rare diseases where there is a high unmet medical need.

How would you assess the access to innovative medicines in Sweden, considering the country’s decentralized reimbursement system?

Sweden is committed to its new life sciences strategy. The New Therapies (NT) Council focuses on innovative treatments, including rare diseases, to ensure national equal introduction throughout the country. Although the regional system may seem fragmented, it allows for testing innovations in a small format and using the findings to scale up in the rest of the Swedish market. Takeda utilizes this decentralized system to bring faster market access through real-world evidence.

Value-based care is a prominent feature in Sweden, and the country possesses rich health data thanks to its Quality Registries and Biobanks. What were the main findings from the report by The Economist Intelligence Unit and Takeda on the Swedish system?

The report highlighted Sweden as a global leader in value-based healthcare. With quality registries, integrated care solutions, and collaboration between authorities, industry, and academia, Sweden has the right building blocks. Takeda invests additional resources in building centres of excellence in Sweden. We aim to upscale the findings and solutions from Sweden to benefit our global operations. Projects related to artificial intelligence and other areas, leveraging experiences from different industries, are ongoing. The goal is to create holistic solutions beyond single therapeutic areas or products for a sustainable healthcare environment.

Peers in Sweden have emphasized the country’s sophisticated healthcare ecosystem as an ideal testbed for new product launches. Does Takeda share the same mindset?

Sweden allows for fast product launches, but there are still obstacles for personalized medicine, such as cell and gene therapies. Takeda is working in this field, and some products have received EMA approval and are undergoing evaluation in Sweden. The assessment methods could be adjusted to accommodate these new medicines better, enabling faster treatments. Takeda collaborates with payers and stakeholders to develop innovative contracting solutions based on patient value rather than volume or price.

Considering this unique environment, are there potential areas where other Takeda affiliates can learn from the Swedish operations?

Other Takeda affiliates should be bold and drive innovation as we do in Sweden. Building good relationships with authorities and stakeholders is crucial to creating sustainable solutions, particularly for new therapies that require new approval mechanisms. Sweden is at the forefront, and other countries should strive to reach this level.

How would you like to see the affiliate develop in the future?

Our goal is to establish a long-term presence in Sweden, focusing on more than just quick commercial wins. With Takeda’s strong values and heritage, we aspire to become a leader in all strategic therapy areas in Sweden. Collaboration and co-creation will enable us to make our innovative products available as quickly as possible.

Do you have a final message for our international audience?

Sweden is a hub for breakthrough innovation, talent, and expertise. I invite everyone to pay attention to Sweden as solutions developed here will significantly impact the future of life sciences!

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