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#EAPM: Looking for incentives in health care to boost the concept of ‘value’




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"Where is the value?" is a big question in many areas of life. One could argue that the current wave of Euroscepticism (most recently having been seen in the UK, and now France) is at least partly due to a perception that the European Union is not offering enough value to many of its citizens, writes  European Alliance for Personalised Medicine (EAPM) Executive Director Denis Horgan. 

Added to this, while most people accept that innovation is good for citizenry, many question the perceived high prices charged by pharmaceutical companies for certain medicines - prices that many Member State healthcare systems have to forego.  The knock-on effect, of course, is that many patients are denied novel drugs and/or treatments, leading to a lower quality of life and sometimes avoidable death.

On the other hand, life expectancy in Europe is going up-and-up, largely as a result of innovation in the healthcare sector, alongside better lifestyles and diets.  Pharmaceutical companies are always developing new drugs, but it can take up to 15 years of research and testing, plus sometimes billions of euro, to get a product to market. This is a huge investment and the incentives in the EU for such innovation are inadequate.

The system is therefore far from perfect, but that doesn’t mean that we should leave innovation to lie down in the grass when it should be soaring to new heights for the benefit of EU citizens.  And it is not all about money. Smarter integration across Europe of current science into healthcare systems, allowing much more preventative and targeted care, would represent a form of value that any citizen could see.


Add to this the fact that a healthy Europe means a wealthy Europe, not least because of outside investment in groundbreaking research and cutting-edge science, and there’s more clear value for everyone.  But one major question for society (and, thus, the EU and its member states) is how do we realise the massive potential being offered by research and development, and the incredible advances in the medically applicable sciences, such as genetics?  We have to find better and faster ways to do this and the barriers, while substantial, are far from being insurmountable.  For example, an Ireland-based medtech company has signed a deal with the third-largest full service clinical diagnostic laboratory in the US - a deal worth between €5-10 million.

The firm, Diaceutics, signed the agreement in order to acquire data to help the pharmaceutical industry get new drugs from bench-to-bedside.  The data will come from around 300,000 health-care providers with access to more than 50,000 patient samples every day. It’s massive in its scope, and is expected to improve patient testing by allowing pharmaceutical companies to get a better grip on the testing patterns of those doctors who are looking at personalised medicine solutions for their patients.

It’s a fine example that shows what can potentially be achieved by coordination and cooperation and, while this is a transatlantic agreement, the same could hold true across the EU’s borders.  For its part, it is fair to say that the EU has at least recognized that innovations in healthcare can contribute to health and well-being of citizens and patients through access to innovative products, services and treatments that have added value.  It is also aware that in order to stimulate development, there is a need to facilitate the translation of scientific advances into innovative medicinal products that meet regulatory standards, accelerate patients’ access to innovative therapies with added value for patients and are affordable to the member states’ health systems.


Early dialogue between technology developers, regulatory, health technology assessment and, where relevant, pricing bodies will promote innovation and quicker access to medicines at affordable prices, to the benefit of patients.  Unfortunately, there are too few forums that allow this necessary inter-stakeholder dialogue with the result that the people who need the fastest results most, the patients, end up losing out.  With that in mind, the European Alliance for Personalised Medicine is working towards the first ever pan-European, multidisciplinary Congress entitled ‘Personalising Your Health: A Global Imperative!’. It will be held in the capital of Northern Ireland (27-30 November) in partnership with Queen’s University Belfast and Visit Belfast.

The over-arching idea for the event is that it will act as a one-stop shop for everything connected with personalised medicine, and will also take on board conclusions that emerged from EAPM’s recent conference in Brussels.  A key element of the Belfast event will be coming up with concrete recommendations about how Europe can integrate all the new science into healthcare systems, with the ultimate goal of allowing  citizens’ access to all preventative and personalised care.  When it comes to value, such a situation would boost the standing of the EU, pharmaceutical companies and the medical arena as a whole.

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