Finnish ContrAl takes its addiction treatment program to the global market

Finnish ContrAl takes its addiction treatment program to the global market

mental health

Finnish ContrAl takes its addiction treatment program to the global market

ContrAl broke into the North-American market with Team Finland’s support and quickly signed licensing deals that cover the whole continent.

ContrAl Clinics, a private clinic chain specializing in treating alcohol abuse and addictions, has treated about 6000 patients in Finland of which 78% have regained control over their alcohol use. The treatment program consists of a combination of psychosocial therapy and targeted medication. The primary goal is non-hazardous alcohol consumption rather than abstinence.

The treatment program is based on the Sinclair Method, the research for which was started by Dr. David Sinclair already in the 1970s in the research labs of the Finnish alcohol monopoly Alko. He was also one of the founding members of the company in 1996. The Chief Medical Officer of ContrAl Clinics is Dr. Hannu Alho, Professor of Addiction Medicine, who is also President of the International Society of Addiction Medicine.

Trip coincided with change in the market and media coverage

According to ContrAl’s CEO Jukka Keski-Pukkila, entering the international markets has been in the company’s plans since the beginning.

“We knew that America has the world’s biggest market and there is dissatisfaction with the treatment methods that are more than 80 years old and have no scientific proof. But our resources have been fairly limited,” says Keski-Pukkila.
“American insurance companies are no longer prepared to pay USD 20,000 for people with alcohol use disorder to stay in remote rehab hotels when there is no proof of their benefits. There is a need for new open care methods that are cheaper, more pleasant for the patient and considerably more effective.”

In 2015, the market potential of the United States increased substantially when the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism accepted treatments aiming for reduced alcohol use rather than total abstinence. The respected magazine The Atlantic also published an in-depth article that questioned the traditional methods for treating alcohol abuse such as AA. The author of the article had visited Finland to interview Sinclair and Keski-Pukkila and presented the ContrAl method as a convincing success story.

An export promotion trip to the United States in September 2015, organised by Finpro and Tekes – the Finnish Funding Agency for Innovation, was therefore perfectly timed from ContrAl’s perspective.

Pitch perfect in Santa Clara

“It was like the trip to America was tailored for us. We specifically visited areas like Massachusetts, Boston ja San Francisco where new approaches are more easily taken onboard,” says Keski-Pukkila.
At the Health 2.0 trade fair held in Santa Clara, Silicon Valley, ContrAl and other Finnish companies had the opportunity to present their work to health technology experts, companies and investors.

“Finpro organised an absolutely brilliant pitching coaching session by local experts for all of us, which gave us a lot of confidence. The actual pitching sessions were in the main hall of the trade show. They were completely packed and went really well. We can be proud of these Finnish companies.”

Comprehensive licensing agreements

During the visit, Keski-Pukkila was surprised by how well the people in the field already knew ContrAl. The long-term work by David Sinclair and Hannu Ohja in the field of addiction diseases had clearly attracted attention across the Atlantic.

But the results of the new contacts made during the trip provided an even bigger surprise. In January 2016, Alavida Health Ltd came to Finland  to familiarize themselves with ContrAl’s operation and this was immediately followed by negotiations for a license agreement. In the spring, a second license agreement was made with ContrAl Clinics New England and its staff came to Helsinki for training. The agreements cover the use of the ContrAl method over the whole of North America.

“The trip to America took us to the biggest market in one leap. Before the trip I was thinking that it would be good if we get some basic understanding about the America market. I couldn’t imagine that we would immediately get contacts that lead to agreements. The trip also helped a great deal when we were negotiating about the agreements.”

Aiming for new markets

The ContrAl treatment method is now being taken to the global market through the licensing and partnership model. There is good market potential for example in Europe and Japan.

“The situation is very interesting and we are a really excited. Negotiations are currently ongoing with many different parties,” says Keski-Pukkila.

Team Finland still acts as an important tool for global expansion. In Spring 2016, ContrAl got acquainted with the UK’s National Health Service as part of a trip organised by Finpro. The company is returning to the UK under the Team Finland flag in the coming autumn to participate in an NHS trade fair.

“Finpro’s programs are important for small entrepreneurs. They can find contacts that we would have no chance of reaching. It is much better to enter new markets as a group under the protective wing of Finpro and Tekes rather than going it alone. And networking with the other Finnish companies is an added bonus,” says Keski-Pukkila.

New services and sources of business

“Even an older company can reinvent itself and shift up into a growth company,” says Panu Keski-Pukkila, who views the future of the company founded by his father 20 years ago from the perspective of a new generation of startup entrepreneurs.
“We are currently thinking about what parts of the treatment process can be sensibly digitalized and what kind of support services can be developed so that the treatment is made available to a bigger group of people.”

The decades of experience in treating alcohol addiction have also created a strong base for developing new service packages and sources of business. ContrAl already offers a treatment program for gambling addiction and launched the pilot phase of a treatment program for internet addiction during the spring.

“The results of the pilot phase have been very good. When virtual reality becomes mainstream, the markets will explode and we want to be ready at that stage with a treatment program which can be scaled up,” says Panu Keski-Pukkila.

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