December 15, 2018

Ill-prepared for the arrival of new medicines

Pharmaceutical Innovation and Access to Medicines

While in the last years the number of new drugs in the market has been limited, this trend has changed and countries may expect larger bills in the next future. The OECD report explains the main challenges of pharmaceutical innovation and says:
Despite a slowdown in growth in the 2000s, pharmaceutical spending has nevertheless increased sharply in some therapeutic areas, such as oncology and certain rare diseases where many new medicines target small population groups and command high prices. While these may well address unmet needs, they often have prices that may not be justified by the health benefits they confer.
Countries may be ill-prepared for the arrival of novel medicines targeting wide  population groups. In 2013, the first of a new class of very effective but expensive
drugs known as direct-acting anti-virals (DAAs) for hepatitis C created a shock due to the potential budget impact of treating all infected people. Many countries initially restricted access to the most severely affected patients, creating frustration among patients and clinicians alike. Although subsequent entries of alternative products have created competition on prices and allowed payers to expand eligibility to treatment, the initial shock highlighted the lack of readiness of payers for such events.
In some countries, sudden, large price increases for off-patent medicines have made important treatments unaffordable for patients.
Finally, innovation is lacking in certain areas of high-unmet need, such as new antimicrobials, non-vascular dementia, and some rare diseases.
The report summarises different proposals and measures that would be helpful for a government that cares about citizens' welfare. Unfortunately, this is not our case.