Collaboration core to improving access to innovative medicines

Out-Law Analysis | 25 Nov 2019 | 11:18 am | 3 min. read

All possible options for funding innovative pipeline medicines should be considered in Ireland to ensure access to medicines and reward pharmaceutical companies for developing innovative new treatments that prove themselves able to deliver benefits for patients.

There is a real opportunity to consider tangible solutions when the industry gets together with the Irish government to renegotiate the current agreement on the supply of medicines to the public health services in Ireland, which expires in 2020.

The option of an outcomes-based pricing model was one of the topics debated at the Irish Pharmaceutical Healthcare Association's (IPHA's) 'innovate for life' conference held in Dublin last week.

Under an outcomes-based pricing model, medicines suppliers to Ireland's health service would be provided with an initial base reimbursement for the supply of their products that would be subsequently topped up with a premium payment if the medicines are shown, through their use, to improve patient outcomes.

Finn Michael_Nov 2019

Michael Finn

Partner

Without appropriate reimbursement, there is no incentive and insufficient capital for pharmaceutical companies to reinvest in the next-generation of drugs. It is, therefore, in the interests of industry and the government alike to find a fair model that balances the competing interests.

The move to an outcomes-based pricing model would be a realistic solution to a problem shared between industry and the state. That problem is how to ensure access to innovative new medicines that are truly effective at prices that are both affordable but which also recognise the investment that companies make in developing them.

This is often seen as a battleground area, but the truth is that collaboration is needed to find a financing model that works both for the tax payer and for industry. Without appropriate reimbursement, there is no incentive and insufficient capital for pharmaceutical companies to reinvest in the next-generation of drugs. It is, therefore, in the interests of industry and the government alike to find a fair model that balances the competing interests.

Other solutions should be explored too to support improved access to medicines in Ireland. The solutions that can spur the continued growth in medical innovation are only possible if there is a willingness to collaborate, and this requires a mutual recognition of interests and compromise.

Last year Ireland joined the Beneluxa initiative on access to drugs and pricing, teaming up with the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg and Austria to jointly negotiate with the pharmaceutical sector on the price and reimbursement of some medicines. This is a good example of how states can pool their purchasing power to achieve efficiencies, but broader collaboration with industry, academia and others is needed to truly enable innovation at a scale and speed that works for all.

Currently, much of the work in the field of medical research is carried out in silos. This can slow down the process of drugs discovery and delay patients' access to new treatments. One entity, the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI), is changing that. The IMI is an EU public-private partnership funding health research and innovation. It aims to bring pharmaceutical companies, SMEs, universities, patient groups, regulators and government agencies together to share knowledge and data at a pre-competitive stage to accelerate research and development in life sciences.

Cutting the time involved in the drugs discovery process has the potential to provide pharmaceutical companies with huge savings. Collaborating more through bodies such as the IMI, however, would require a cultural shift, openness to knowledge and data sharing, and a willingness to share in the benefits derived from new intellectual property (IP) developed in the collaborative work undertaken.

Data should be at the heart of all innovation in life sciences as we continue the shift towards more personalised medicines and advanced therapies. We are at an inflection point now where big pharma and SMEs, the public, state bodies and technology companies can collaborate to find ways of sharing data while at the same time protecting the data rights of individuals.

Patients' unique identifiers should be associated with data across the entire health and care system so that the data can follow the patient regardless of where they are treated. At the same time, patients need to understand the power of their data to help inform medical research and innovation. Ultimately, though, they must be informed of their rights in their data, and be able to exercise control over who has access to it and for what purposes.

Although the current model for funding medicines has worked in the past, it is not suitable for the innovative medicines in the pipeline. Now, more than ever before, companies are developing medicines that treat rare and debilitating diseases for smaller populations of patients. The ultimate and shared goal of all stakeholders is to improve the quality of life of those patients. There is, therefore, a common basis for all industry players to find collaborative solutions to the access issue.