NRI-conference: Moving further with Medical Tailoring

Dear Nordic friends, guests, organizers

When I met you last year, I argued for the need to stay Nordic, to continue the Nordic collaboration on health research and innovation.

Today, my message has not changed or been moderated. 

I know that the Nordic collaboration is looked upon with great interest by the outside world.

Together, the Nordics have the potential to become a leading region of innovation and new knowledge.

My conviction materialized three weeks ago, as the Finnish Health Minister Juha Rehula and I, in a joint letter to our Nordic colleagues, proposed a joint Nordic initiative on health research.

We believe that the Nordic competitive advantage could be achieved through increased collaboration and use of patient cohorts, databases, biobanks and registries.

We consider personalized medicine a new opportunity for the Nordic countries to further enhance this advantage.  

Our proposal is:

  1. First, to speed up the process of ethical reviews in the Nordic countries, which is a hurdle for Nordic research collaboration, we propose to develop a common Nordic approach to ethical reviews of clinical trials. This can be approached through the development of common guidelines to nationally made ethical reviews of clinical trials and health technologies. When we have gained experiences from the implementation of the European regulation on clinical trials on medicinal products for human use, we propose to revisit this matter. I would also like to take this work further through the Norwegian chairmanship for the Nordic Council of Ministers in 2017.
  2. Secondly, we propose to explore the potential for increased Nordic collaboration on health research. We propose to do this by describing the existing Nordic health research activities and to identify the most promising areas of Nordic collaboration. To facilitate this debate, Finland will arrange a two-day conference on this matter in August this year.

The NRI-network will be an important actor and teammate in the future Nordic collaboration.

I hope you are with us, and will contribute in the development of these common Nordic projects to promote Nordic collaboration on research and innovation.

For today's conference, the NRI has wisely selected three topics of great importance and with an equally great potential for increased Nordic collaboration.

These three topics are: Personalized medicine, antimicrobial resistance and Mobile Health (mHealth).

First – personalized medicine: The development of personalized medicine is an emerging topic on the Nordic health agenda.

It represents a shift in the way diseases are perceived, categorized, prevented, diagnosed and cured.

Personalized medicine is in many aspects promising to improve diagnostics and treatments, but it also entails several challenges that have to be met.

Like several other countries, Norway is in the midst of planning and preparing the development and implementation of personalized medicine in the health services.

In June, the Norwegian Directorate of Health will finalize a national strategy for personalized medicine.

It will chart a direction for personalized medicine in Norway for the next five years.

We already have experience on Nordic collaboration on clinical trials through the Nordic Trials Alliance and on health registries. With the development of personalized medicine this collaboration is increasingly relevant.

The second topic – antimicrobial resistance – is one of the most significant global challenges in modern medicine. If not acted upon, the antibiotic resistance we see today will be merely the vanguard of a harrowing future.

A future where hospital- and community-acquired infections will be increasingly difficult to manage. 

A future where standard cancer treatment and surgical procedures could become high-risk interventions due to the risk of infection with resistant bacteria.

Innovation of new antimicrobials is urgently needed. However, this must be combined with safeguarding the effect of existing drugs as well as access to antimicrobials for the millions of people currently without it.

Close co-operation is needed between all the relevant sectors, both at the local, national and international level.

In Norway, the use of antibiotics in humans is relatively low compared to many other European countries.

But new resistance mechanisms are still emerging and spreading.

In June last year, the Norwegian Government launched a National Strategy against Antimicrobial Resistance. The strategy has a multisectorial approach.

This year, we are developing Action Plans for the implementation of the national strategy both in the human health and animal health sectors.

Our goal at the national level is to reduce the use of antibiotics among humans with 30 per cent by the end of 2020.

We have set ourselves this ambitious goal because antibiotics are a public good that we need to preserve for future generations. We must ensure that new antibiotics and diagnostics are developed.

We must also ensure that antibiotics are used only when necessary, while assuring that all who need antibiotic treatment can get access to it when needed.

The Bo Könberg report on the future Nordic health cooperation suggested that the Nordic countries should work more closely together in tackling antimicrobial resistance.

The Nordic Ministers fully agree, last year we signed a declaration aiming to restrict unnecessary use of antibiotics based on the «One Health» approach.

The Nordic governments have made one step together towards safeguarding antibiotics.

Since all the Nordic countries have made a common declaration, we have a common voice internationally, foremost in the EU, where we can drive forward change.

Mobile Health (mHealth) is the third selected topic with a great potential for increased Nordic collaboration.eHealth, mobile Health (or mHealth), Telemedicine and welfare technology represent new possibilities to improve, and even radically change, our way of delivering health care services.

These technologies also represent new ways in which patients and citizens are empowered in questions concerning their own health.

In recent years, the mobile phone has evolved to become a powerful computer. With different sensors and a large number of health applications, we now have the opportunity to monitor our personal health, and collect data in real time.

This is good news both to the patient and the health care providers. For instance the health status of a patient with a chronic disease can be closely followed by health personnel from her home. Studies from Oslo confirm that this is both cost effective and beneficial for the patient.

We have only seen the beginning of this development, and the possibilities seem almost limitless.

However, we need to make sure that products from different suppliers work together, and that information collected can be stored in standardized formats for secure information exchange. That is why agreeing on common standards for these types of solutions is important.

The Norwegian Government has decided that Norway will follow the Continua framework when implementing solutions for personal connected health and care. We are glad to see that the other Nordic countries follow the same path.

The Nordic countries are at the forefront when it comes to adopting mHealth technologies. Together, we can guide the development and contribute to developing international standards.

Concluding remarks

The future health challenges in the Nordic region cannot be handled by one country alone.

By joining forces we will be able to achieve more, in favor of the patient and the future health services.

I hope NRI will take a part in it.

I wish you a good conference!