How long should you WAIT for a new medicine? Europe’s post code lottery

100 days? 1000 days? None? A report published by EFPIA today, highlights that across Europe, patients in different countries can wait more than seven times longer than patients in other countries to get access to the same medicine. Even within one country, patients can get access to some medicines almost immediately, and wait years for others. Whatever the reasons, it’s at the expense of patients’ health and it’s time all actors in the healthcare system come together to address Europe’s access to medicines challenges.
Europe’s innovative pharmaceutical industry discovers and delivers some of the most powerful tools in the fight against disease. We are relentless in our commitment to develop new treatments and cures for patients across Europe.
In practice that means over 7000 new medicines in development, transforming the outlook for patients living with cancer, rare diseases, diabetes, cardio-vascular disease, neurological conditions and a host of other diseases. In Europe alone,  as an industry we invest over 35 billion euros a year discovering and developing new treatments and cures, employing over 120,000 people in research and development roles.
No matter how exciting the cutting-edge science, its value is only realised when patients benefit from advances in treatment. Everyone involved in healthcare from patients to service providers, researchers to clinicians, pharmaceutical companies to payers want to see patients across Europe get access to new treatment options. Examining disparities in the speed of access and availability of new medicines is the focus of EFPIA’s WAIT Indicator report published today. The report is designed to provide an accurate picture of the realities of access to medicines in Europe.
It’s our hope that by focusing on the needs of patients and working with partners across healthcare we can find collaborative solutions to address the issues raised in the report.
The report underlines the significant variance in access to new medicines across Europe. The time period from a market authorisation being granted to patients getting access to that medicine can vary by more than seven-fold across Europe. Typically, patients in Northern and Western Europe get access to new treatments between 100 and 200 days after market authorisation has been granted. Whereas patients mainly in Southern and Eastern Europe wait between 600 and 1000 days. Countries with more products available tend to have faster access to medicines.
The report indicates that variance exists not only across countries but also within countries where large variations exist in the speed of patient access to different medicines. In fact in many cases, the level of variation within a country is greater than between countries. For example, in Estonia the shortest delay was 21 days and the longest 1443 days, in Ireland the variance was 0 days to 1321 days and in Austria 33 days vs.1383 days.
The reasons behind these delays are often multi-factorial, rooted in the medicines access systems and processes in the Member States. These can range from duplicative clinical assessments to the length of an HTA process, reimbursement delays, local formulary decisions even IT processes. Access delays are not simply a question of economics but concerns over affordability of new medicines and the sustainability of healthcare play a part.  Delays in access can also be used as a cost containment measure.  What is clear is that the reasons are almost never clinical. Patients in one part of Europe should not have to wait seven times longer for a new medicine than citizens in another country.  Patients living with one condition in a country should not have to wait longer than a patient living with a different condition. Access to medicines should be based on your clinical need not your post code.
I believe everyone has a role to play in contributing ideas and creative thinking to how we address patient access issues while ensuring that healthcare is affordable now and sustainable in the future. How we drive research and development in to new treatments and cures while managing rising demand for services in the context of constrained budgets takes new ways of thinking, collaboration and partnership. I believe now is the time to develop a high-level, multi-stakeholder partnership to collectively address these issues.  At EFPIA we are keen to play our part.


Nathalie Moll

Nathalie Moll joined the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA) as Director...
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