Opening speech at Nordic Trial Alliance “Potential in Nordic Clinical Research Cooperation”

Dear friends, guests, organizers

This is the first time I attend a meeting in the Nordic Trials Alliance, yet, I feel that I already know you.

At least I think I know a great deal of you as I have spoken about you – and the importance of your work – many times.

NordForsk – thank you for hosting this conference and for facilitating the Nordic Trials Alliance.

Standing here before you, I would also like to congratulate you on your (NordForsk) 10 year anniversary last year.

NordForsk has grown to be a mature 10 year old and is now a key player in Nordic collaboration.

I know that Nordic collaboration is looked upon with great interest by the outside world. Together, the Nordics are becoming a leading region of knowledge.

In 2008 the Norwegian Ministry of Health and Care Services initiated a dialogue at the Nordic level on the need for a Nordic collaboration on clinical trials.

The background was a shared challenge: the decline in clinical trials in the Nordic region.

The reasoning was clear: the Nordic region should take advantage of our similarities and strengths and join forces in order to increase the number of clinical trials.

The purpose was good: Facilitating favourable conditions for conducting clinical trials. Fast and increased access to new and effective diagnostics and treatments for all patients.

The proposal was aspiring: To facilitate, coordinate and initiate Nordic multicentre clinical trials and to make a hub for information and dialogue on clinical trials at the Nordic level. 

This was the beginning of a three-year long Nordic project, known to us all as the Nordic Trials Alliance.

Today, we will learn more about the outcomes of the Nordic Trials Alliance, followed by a very important discussion on ways forward in Nordic clinical research.

My ambitions for the future Nordic collaboration on health research are high.

In 2014 I enjoyed talking to NordForsk, on the subject of Nordic collaboration on clinical trials. The talk resulted in an article with the title: "High ambitions", in the Nordforsk Magazine.

I believe there is an unreleased potential for a strong Nordic collaboration in the health sector.

One of the areas of greatest potential is, in my view, Nordic collaboration in clinical research.

The Nordic countries share similarities, both within research groups and research infrastructure.

The Nordic population trust clinical research, which is evident from the number of patients willing to participate in clinical research.

The Nordic countries are attractive to the pharmaceutical industry: A total population of 26 million, similar health care services, strong research groups and health data of high quality. 

Nordic collaboration on clinical research and health registries is increasingly relevant, especially in the light of the development of personalised medicine.

The health and care sector is of great importance to the society. This is a sector where knowledge, new technology and demographic development lead to rapid changes

The patient and her needs is to be in the centre of these changes.

Research and innovation is important when aiming for higher patient quality, better health and care services and more effective and affordable drugs. 

Research and innovation also lay the foundation for new business development.

Collaboration is essential for success – across disciplines, sectors and countries.

The importance of Nordic collaboration on health research is discussed in the recent Norwegian white paper on medicines and the newly released governmental action plan for Health&Care21.

Facilitating health research and innovation is a one of four aims in the white paper on medicines.

In the white paper we clearly state that the Norwegian government will be working to continue the Nordic collaboration on clinical research.

The ministry also initiated the national strategy Health&Care21. The strategy will be implemented by the research and innovation communities in Norway. The aim is to increase the quality of Norwegian research and innovation in health care.

In December last year, we presented an action plan on how the government will take Health&Care21 forward. Nordic collaboration plays an important part.

Last year, the Secretariat for the Nordic Committee of Senior Officials for Health and Social Affairs granted funding for 2016 to the Nordic Trials Alliance and Nordic collaboration on ethical reviews of clinical trials on medicinal products for human use.

Now, we are left with the question: How do we ensure that this effort will be continued after 2016, given the need to increase the number of clinical trials in the Nordic region?

I believe we have only seen the start of a Nordic collaboration on clinical research. We need to build on the work that has been done in the Nordic Trial Alliance (and experiences gained so far)

We also need to take into account the new developments in technology and personalised medicine, with smaller patient groups.  In this context, Nordic and international collaboration is essential.

I believe we should pursue Bo Könberg's proposal on ethical review of clinical trials. This should be part of the future Nordic collaboration on clinical trials and health registries.

The Norwegian Ministry of Health and Care Services is looking at how we can collaborate on clinical trials and ethical reviews, after 2016.

Norway acquires the chairmanship of the Nordic Council of Ministers in 2017. This represents an opportunity to take our initiatives forward.

You, the stakeholders present here today, will be important actors and teammates in this undertaking.

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 favour of the patient and the future health services.

I hope you will take a part in it.

It is important that you give your input into how the Nordic Trial Alliance can be developed further to increase the number of clinical trials in the Nordic region.

I wish you a good stakeholder meeting!