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Forum assesses competitiveness of Europe's pharmaceutical industry

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Europe's Pharmaceutical Forum has concluded its three-year process and, on 2 October, put forward several recommendations addressing the many challenges facing the pharmaceutical industry, public health interests and national healthcare systems.

The high-level forum was co-chaired by Vice President of the European Commission Günter Verheugen and Commissioner Androulla Vassiliou, and welcomed health ministers of Member States, MEPs, the Secretary General of the European Free Trade Association and representatives of 10 stakeholder organisations.

The Pharmaceutical Forum's initial mandate, set out in 2005, was 'to discuss the competitiveness of the European pharmaceutical industry and related public health considerations, with a specific focus on information to patients on disease and treatment options, relative effectiveness assessments and pricing and reimbursement of medicinal products'.

The Forum's final report addressed specific issues in three major areas: improving access to information on diseases and treatments, identifying (and providing fair access to) the most effective medicines and balancing such access with reward for innovation within the limits of healthcare budgets.

The report stressed the need to provide citizens with more information in effective communication formats (electronic and non-electronic means), 'taking account of local traditions, healthcare systems and languages'. While acknowledging that doctors are the most appropriate people to provide information to their patients, the Forum recommended that 'Member States, the Commission and health actors [...] consider new collaborations in the field of information to patients. Such collaborations should respect transparency, disclosure of financial and other support as well as definition of responsibilities.'

The Forum's report addressed the need to improve information flow, in terms of both patient access to information and data sharing in research and development. Specifically, it spoke of the need to improve data availability and transferability. The report encouraged Member States and stakeholders to regularly exchange information in order to consolidate scientific evidence at national level, to provide this evidence to pricing and reimbursement authorities, and to inform healthcare professionals and patients on the most effective drugs.

The exchange of effectiveness data should, according to the report, 'aim to identify any barriers, whether scientific, technical or legal, that prevent all the parties involved from circulating the information easily'. It adds that: 'national authorities and companies should also consider ways of having early dialogue during product development to improve the generation of appropriate data as far as possible.'

Member States were called upon to agree on a clear set of expectations on innovations they consider to be valuable. Communication of these common expectations 'will give companies a clear direction on healthcare priorities and indications on the evidence needed by authorities, while bringing authorities clarity on the mid- to long-term budget needs,' according to the report. Companies were urged to 'deliver the innovative medicines that society needs' and to cooperate with patient organisations.

Member State authorities, stakeholders and the Commission were encouraged to 'strengthen their efforts to ensure access to orphan medicines in all EU Member States,' and to pursue early dialogue on research and development, improve exchange of 'knowledge on the scientific assessment of the clinical added value', establish specific pricing and reimbursement mechanisms and increase awareness of orphan diseases.

The report concluded that: 'Member States and the Commission, in cooperation with relevant stakeholders, should within the next two years undertake a first review of progress following the recommendations from the Pharmaceutical Forum in the field of pricing and reimbursement [...].Further cooperation and exchange of experiences at EU level is needed.'

Vice President Verheugen said, 'The Forum's recommendations can lead to important savings and permit a better reward for pharmaceutical innovation. I call upon industry and national authorities to help implementing these recommendations to the benefit of the patients and healthcare budget.'

Pharmaceutical Forum

Source: Community R&D Information Service (CORDIS)

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