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MedEngine Warmly Welcomes: Kalle Aaltonen

 

We are pleased to introduce the newest addition to our team: Kalle Aaltonen. Kalle has extensive experience in the field of pharmaceuticals, their value assessment, and pricing.

Kalle is reliable and helpful. “I’ve never been one to withhold the skills I have learned, but prefer to share the things I learn with others around me,” he says. He is also an analytical person who likes to plan. “Although my wife’s encouraging me to be a little more spontaneous,” he adds with a twinkle in his eye.

Kalle graduated from the University of Helsinki as a pharmacist in 2010 and continued working towards his PhD, which involved systematic literature reviews and Real-World Data (RWD) research on the effectiveness and safety of biologic treatments in rheumatoid diseases. “I was fortunate that at the time there was a research group focused on pharmacoeconomics led by Prof. Blom at the Faculty of Pharmacy. I defended my thesis entitled ‘Efficacy, Safety, and Outcomes of Biologic Drugs in the Treatment of Rheumatoid Arthritis’ in 2015.” Kalle says he enjoys research and teaching so much that he continued to supervise students and undertake research projects even after leaving the university. For these reasons, he was recently recognized by the University of Eastern Finland with the title of Adjunct Professor.

During the seven years I spent working for the reimbursement authority, I gained abundant hands-on experience with the Finnish medicines reimbursement system.” 

Kalle was introduced to health economics as a student and then to novel biologic drugs around the time he started to formulate his master’s thesis. He continues, “I wasn’t particularly interested in laboratory work and found working in a pharmacy a bit repetitive for my taste. Furthermore, working part-time in a pharmacy made me curious about how the pricing of drugs was decided. Since healthcare expenditures were on the rise, the optimal allocation of scarce resources was a challenge I wanted to contribute to solving. When the opportunity to work with clinical and health economic experts on a project arose, I didn’t have to think too long for my answer. Fast forward a couple of years, I found that I could also apply the biostatistical and statistical programming skills I had acquired to cost-effectiveness modeling. This reassured me that I had found my career path, one that I’m still pursuing,” Kalle sums up.

In addition to research and teaching, Kalle’s work at the university included coordinating an observational research project named ROB-FIN. “While much of my days were occupied by applying for study permits and ethical statements as well as obtaining the data from register holders, it was all worth it when it came time to start analyzing the data. There’s something so engaging about putting together the pieces of data and identifying the results derived from actual patient care. Having defended my thesis in 2015 and working briefly as a post-doctoral researcher in the same research group, I joined the pharmaceuticals pricing board in 2017 as a health economics expert. During the seven years I spent working for the reimbursement authority, I gained abundant hands-on experience with the Finnish medicines reimbursement system, including reviewing health economic evaluations and negotiating for conditional reimbursement. I quickly discovered that in a chronic shortage of long-term data on the effects and costs of treatment interventions, transparently communicated cost-effectiveness modeling was a necessity for informed decision-making and productive price negotiation. And while real-world evidence was and still is often suggested as an approach to mitigate the lack of data from clinical trials, observational studies have limitations of their own which must be considered in their design and interpretation. Since many reimbursement decisions had to be carried out with less-than-perfect information, I started highly valuing post-reimbursement evidence gathering to reaffirm the assumptions made earlier in the modeling,” Kalle enlightens us. “In addition, I also actively participated in the preparations for the HTA regulation, which brings pan-European joint clinical assessments to our daily routines from the beginning of the next year.”

I look forward to helping pharmaceutical companies communicate the value of their innovations!” 

Achieving the title of an Adjunct Professor was Kalle’s goal for a long time. “After accomplishing this, I wanted to explore new challenges and see what else I could do during my professional career. While reviewing the models at a reimbursement agency is an important task, the models must first be created and localized to Finland by someone, which I may have previously taken for granted. MedEngine, an established consultancy in Nordic countries, seemed like a perfect fit to utilize my prior knowledge while learning to see the market access landscape and health economic models from a different perspective. I look forward to helping pharmaceutical companies communicate the value of their innovations to the authorities and educating them about the Finnish reimbursement processes and negotiations!” Kalle says beamingly.

I’ve tried brewing beer, furniture making, and sewing!” 

Outside of work, Kalle goes to the gym and rides his bike. He lives with his wife and their 12-year-old son. “For a while during my studies, I had a small-time photography enterprise and did wedding photography. It did teach me a thing or two about meeting a demanding customer’s expectations!” Kalle laughs. “Overall, I’m always curious to learn by doing. Not only work-related topics but also involving hobbies such as cooking, woodworking, and fixing things. Among other things, I have tried brewing beer, furniture making, and sewing! Brewing was engaging, all the way from the design of the recipe to enjoying the fruits of one’s labor with friends. I had to put that hobby on hold because of time constraints, but I’d love to start again someday!”

Cheers to that! Great to have you with us, Kalle—a warm welcome!

Klaus Elfving

Klaus Elfving

Klaus Elfving is MedEngine's Digital Content Lead.