A Healthier Future – No quick fixes
This Summer I was lucky enough to spend a couple of weeks in Namibia. Watching lions there, it is literally the survival of the fittest, much like the global competition for life science investment. Here in Europe too, an industry dedicated to delivering health for all faces existential challenges as does the European Union itself.
This summer of transition and uncertainty, as a new European Parliament, Commission and President of the European Council step onto the scene, will present many challenges such as accelerating global trade tensions and their economic fall-out, the prospect of a hard Brexit and the gravitational pull of China and Asia as a source and home for investment.
And this conjecture makes it a perfect moment for all industries, including ours as well as all stakeholders in the healthcare sector to set priorities and get real about what needs be done now.
Let’s look at the top three topics that should be on European policy makers’ to do list:
- Affordable and rapid access to medicines that can extend or transform the lives of patients
- A regulatory system that accelerates rather than holds back access to safe and effective innovative medicines for patients across Europe
- Incentives that support the research and development of new treatments for patients
Industry carries a shared responsibility in a world of finite resources to find solutions together with the healthcare stakeholders, that lead to solutions that enable affordable as well as sustainable access to innovative treatments. The recently adopted WHO Resolution on improving the transparency of markets for medicines further illustrates the need to address concerns around access and availability of innovative medicines.
Currently, measures proposed in certain member states, such as compulsory licensing or replacement compounding, will only create additional hurdles for patient access to the right medicines. Access, availability and affordability issues are multi-faceted and require a multi-stakeholder approach. Industry must be and stands ready to work with EU policy makers and other stakeholders to tackle these challenges.
In the regulatory space, Europe is in a race with strong, more tactical competitors with the added advantage of being single countries, be it in the form of an unpredictable and forceful US or the challenge of China that is gearing up to hold the economic and political strength to shape the rules and standards for the rest of the world.
To keep Europe in the global game or to be in a position to lead the game ourselves, which we need to do if we are to ensure the best outcomes for patients in Europe, EU and national policy makers need to ensure a competitive, world-class regulatory system.
Building on what we already have, a system where Europe excels and which has served patients well for three decades, we need to ensure it embraces advances in science technology and medicines, accelerating access to innovative healthcare solutions and the best patient outcomes.
Such a system should be adaptable to evolving science and technology and needs to speed up regulatory and HTA review, while supporting a broader debate among all stakeholders about the value of different medicines and treatments in an environment where public funding for healthcare is likely to get tighter.
Finally, in terms of creating the right incentives to deliver these outcomes, under the last Commission the pendulum swung too far towards a Europe that is unable to compete with the best on the global R&D stage, putting at risk Europe’s ability to attract future investments and research to the benefit of patients. As the incoming Commission focuses on shaping a new industrial policy, it must recognise more clearly and support the innovative capacity that Europe’s strength in life sciences brings. When fostered, Europe’s innovative capacity delivers home grown investment, high quality jobs and better outcomes for patients.
The pendulum now needs to be recalibrated towards more medical innovation to meet the needs of patients, to develop Europe’s medical research eco-system and drive economic growth. That means a world-class intellectual property system delivering strong Intellectual Property protection, incentives and reward mechanisms for R&D. This has been proven to be the best way of securing sustainable, long-term improvements in public health. The industry has to deliver new, innovative treatments that make a difference to patients and the justified concerns around antimicrobial resistance will be test that we must pass.
All three topics call for a new strategic dialogue for the EU healthcare and life sciences sectors. We need to map out an ambitious vision for the future of health in Europe. And policymakers need to do this in a way which is constructive and takes the broad set of interests and concerns on board and recognises the value and sustainability of innovation.
What is needed is a broad platform for debate such as an EU multi-stakeholder High-level Forum on Access to Healthcare Innovation. Such a platform would help us all take stock of recent transformations in healthcare systems as well as look into the transformations that are coming in areas such as innovative treatments, cures, delivery mechanisms, diagnosis, in and out-patient care etc. and see how to best harness resources and systems to ensure we deliver for today’s as well as tomorrow’s patients while keeping Europe competitive.