Milena Argirović, MD, Takeda Country Head For Serbia, Montenegro, Albania, North Macedonia, Kosovo

Innovating For Patients People And The Planet

Takeda is an innovative pharmaceutical company focused on improving patients’ lived experiences and revolutionising the way diseases are treated around the whole world, including Serbia

The entire Serbian team works tirelessly to provide better health and a brighter future for people living in this region, says Takeda Managing director Milena Argirovic with pride.

It was 10 years ago that Takeda brought its values – of integrity, fairness, honesty and perseverance – from Japan and implemented them in Serbia. What Serbian values has Takeda adopted?

It’s already been ten years since we started taking care of patients in Serbia. And 240 years since Takeda founder Chobei I established Takeda in Osaka, Japan. While our company is evolving continuously, we haven’t lost touch with our rich heritage.

“Takeda-ism”, Patient-Trust-Reputation- Business, always in that order, define our values and guide all actions taken by the company and its employees every day. Returning to your question, I would say that Takeda has adopted not only Serbian values, but also values of the entire region for which our Belgrade office is responsible. We respect diversity and capitalise on similarities among our markets, including both MILENA ARGIROVIĆ, MD, Takeda Country Head for Serbia, Montenegro, Albania, North Macedonia, Kosovo external stakeholders and employees. We enjoy the privilege of working with different nationalities, languages and religions, and we strive to connect the neighbouring markets in order to bring sustainable values to societies across the region.

The unique advantage of the people of the region that I’m pleased to lead is their incredible agility, courage for innovation and commitment to persevere and not give up. And this is so much in line with the global values of Takeda that it enables us to take action locally while building the global Takeda mindset. This is why our activities aren’t limited to healthcare. We do our best to bring value to societies as a whole. Globally, Takeda has defined three strategic priorities related to environmental protection – water stewardship, carbon neutrality and waste minimisation – all with very ambitious goals and timelines. Our local team is fully committed to following the Takeda strategy to protect our planet and we are proud to be the leading team in planet-related activities among all European teams.

Your corporate philosophy can be boiled down to providing better health for people and a brighter future for the world. Where do you focus?

We focus on therapeutic areas where there is a greatest need for patients. With our investments in data and digital, we aim to improve patients’ lived experiences and revolutionise the way we treat disease. Locally, operating in non-EU countries, we are doing our best to speed up regulatory and legal processes in order to bring our unique products and solutions at the same time, or just slightly after, EU countries.

A recent example is a patient with a short bowel syndrome, a rare disease which has dramatic impacts on the lives of people affected, who must live in hospital. We provided support not only with our product, but with an extensive support programme for the patient and his family and, amazingly, he is now fully enjoying his family life at home.

Let’s also mention here the prophylactic treatment for Hereditary Angioedema, where we were among the first countries in Europe where Takeda delivered this treatment to patients, supporting them additionally with a digital solution (app) that enables continuous communication between patients and their physicians, who can design personalised treatment to the individual’s specific needs. These are patients who were going to bed fearing that they wouldn’t wake up because of potentially life-threatening swelling attacks. With prophylactic treatment in place, and continuous communication with their physician, they’re now living a relaxed life free of any attacks.

Last but not least, the first ever stem cell treatment recently approved in Europe has already been approved in Serbia, thanks to the great support of the authorities and our medical expert community. We facilitated on-site training in European centres for Serbian experts. Thanks to that, two healthcare centres in Serbia are already certified to apply stem cells to patients with complicated Crohn’s disease (complex perianal fistulas).

It is known that you collaborate with other innovative Japanese companies from the high-tech sector. What is the objective; to find solutions for the further development of the healthcare system and patient care?

With the Japanese heritage that’s a source of pride for all of us, we focus on innovation – not only in terms of our products, but also value-added services like digitalisation. I’m personally leading the Healthcare group within the Japanese Business Alliance in Serbia and partnering the High-Tech group within the same association, in order to identify the best digital solutions for our healthcare system. Very importantly, we partner local experts who can be engaged today and in future, and who can create long-term value for the local ecosystem.

It is very important that we partner local experts who can be engaged today and in future, and who can create long-term value for the local ecosystem

A great example of this is our longstanding partnership with Serbia’s leading experts in genetics and the IT sector, aimed at providing innovative, precise (personalised) medical solutions. We recently offered support to the Bio4 project, one of Serbia’s most important scientific, educational and technological projects for the future. By capitalising on both Takeda’s global support and local expertise, our patients and the whole society will benefit from this partnership.

Is it true that Takeda didn’t experience a single day of interruptions in deliveries, despite the pandemic, and that you provided treatments for both COVID and NON-COVID patients?

The entire pharmaceutical industry, including individual companies and pharma associations, are supporting our healthcare system in overcoming tough situations like COVID. But this is not enough, as non-COVID patients also need support during this unprecedented period. That’s why we focused on providing additional services beyond products. We are proud that, with our support, as of August 2021, telemedicine has been fully implemented in Serbia’s public healthcare system for the first time ever.

This remote service is currently available at KBC Zvezdara, where patients can have their regular check-ups online and the service is incorporated into the existing healthcare software. It is important to note that this service is fully reimbursed, meaning that it’s completely free-of-charge for patients. Extensive changes to regulatory and legal fields had to be implemented in order to make this happen, but we managed that, together with all our partners on this project.

Takeda acquired Shire three years ago, while this year you formally became a single legal entity in Serbia. How do your employees benefit from this?

As of April 2021, Takeda is formally a single legal entity in Serbia, meaning that the acquisition has been finalised. For our employees, this change means a clear sense of belonging to one Takeda team, one family. Focusing on the wellbeing of our employees, we’ve introduced a hybrid working model in Serbia and provided employees with additional benefits and COVID and non-COVID related support, just as in other Takeda organisations worldwide.

Our people are our priority, which is why we’re proud of the Top Employer certificate we received recently, issued by the Top Employer Institute based in the Netherlands. This prestigious certificate is awarded on the basis of an extensive survey that covers all aspects of HR and employee-centric practices, including People Strategy, Work Environment, Talent Acquisition, Learning, Wellbeing, Engagement, Diversity & Inclusion and much more. I’m proud to share the news that Takeda Serbia received this prestigious certificate for the first time ever, while globally Takeda was awarded for the fifth consecutive year. This is another major achievement of the whole Serbian team, which works tirelessly to provide better health for people living in this region, while striving to secure an exceptional working environment for all employees of our organisation.

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