The Pharma Summit 2013 brought together the pharma industry to ask a very ‘back to basic’ question about the future of this critical sector: does pharma still have a role to play in medical research? And in particular, what are the current challenges and future opportunities for research-led pharmaceutical companies?
I was able to bring AstraZeneca’s perspective on this hot topic – focusing on the complex interface that currently exists between innovative medicines and healthcare delivery. While all pharmaceutical companies face many pressures currently, we believe that there is still a huge role for research-led biopharma in delivering value to healthcare through innovative medicines….and that there are achievable, better ways of leading to sustainable healthcare with collaboration from all stakeholders involved.
So, what are the key challenges we see and how can we continue to deliver improvements in health and wellbeing in the future?
Innovation is at the heart of what we do, and our ultimate goal is to deliver value to patients. In the case of innovative medicines, there are countless examples of the tangible impact made on patients’ outcomes – from antibiotics to HIV drugs, from new treatments in cardiovascular diseases to pioneering therapies for cancer.
Nonetheless, the strength of this evidence can all too easily be obscured by the immediate budgetary imperatives of governments around the world. Medicine budgets have been a target in trying to control payers’ spending, but are these short-term, accounting-driven measures really beneficial? Contrary to the current trends, we believe that increasing – not decreasing – investments into innovative medicines can often be the most efficient way to use healthcare resources and drive real benefits for patients too.
How? We believe that the public and private sectors should work closely together to demonstrate that innovative medicines can indeed have a positive impact on overall healthcare costs and create efficiencies, simply because they keep patients well and out of expensive acute care settings.
From our side, to prove the value of innovative medicines we have transformed the way we develop and commercialise them. We now talk to payers throughout the drug development process to identify the actual extent of clinical needs and, at the same time, we work to build the effective evidence needed to prove the value of a medicine in addressing those needs. One way we are doing this at AstraZeneca is through our commitment to delivering real world evidence, which we use to inform drug development strategies and help reduce the uncertainty in predicting the outcomes and costs of introducing new medicines.
We strongly believe that this is a journey that we cannot do alone. It will take dialogue and collaboration to find solutions in generating and assessing this growing amount of evidence. One such area is infectious diseases, where even bigger efforts will be needed to overcome the difficulties posed by the rapid rise of antimicrobial resistance worldwide and the traditional regulatory pathway for new medicines. This recent blog post by John Rex discusses a proposed new regulatory path for antibacterial drug development.
This future of evidence-based decision making, expanded regulatory frameworks and sustainable healthcare policies will only happen if data owners, regulators, payers, policy makers, experts and other life science companies really work together with a shared goal of improving health outcomes for patients in cost effective ways.
In terms of the future and a better way forward, we could learn a lot from the healthcare model in Switzerland, particularly in terms of their approach to valuing biopharmaceutical innovation. Collaboration between government, the medical profession and industry has led to the development of a new approach to assess health services in the broadest sense – not just focusing on the cost of medicines. Systems like this will need time to deliver and we will keep watching. In the meantime, we will continue focusing our efforts towards a more thoughtful, whole-system approach to healthcare policy and encouraging many more to join us in solving for it.