The privatization of the state pharmaceutical monopoly in 2009 also increased Sweden’s vulnerability. Until then, the government pharmacy had maintained the country’s supply of medicine for times of crisis. No agency took over responsibility for national stockpiles afterward.

“It’s not really a great plan,” Mr. Melander noted. “It’s like saying: ‘I don’t have to have a fire extinguisher. I can run out and buy a fire extinguisher when the fire starts.’ It shows that this free market is only free when everything is fine.”