The path of research and innovation for cancer drugs is difficult, from basic research to market access. These challenges include high unmet need, disparities and delays in access, skyrocketing prices, shortages, but also the lack of solid data on the real added value of innovative treatments coming to market and the low patient involvement in health technology assessment (HTA) decisions.
The ever-increasing prices of cancer drugs in Europe have become a matter of growing concern for EU policy makers serious threats to patient access as well as at the sustainability of national health systems.
No country can face these challenges on its own. Growing calls from cancer leagues and other EU health NGOs for fairer prices for cancer drugs and to ensure patient access to drugs with proven benefits require urgent and rapid political action.
We now have a window of opportunity to change the current unsustainable system to benefit patients through the implementation of the relatively recent Pharmaceutical strategy for Europe and European cancer plan.
Affordability, fair prices and transparency
ECL firmly believes that fair pricing is the key to affordability. It is crucial to think what equity means in practice and how all stakeholders can work together to achieve this. A fair price must reflect the value the medicine brings to patients and must reasonably outweigh the cost of bringing the medicine to market.
We believe that the technical and organizational challenges could be overcome by stronger cross-sectoral collaboration across Europe in this area. To this end, in our recent post, We have taken a position on what is a fair price for treatment and how a higher level of transparency is a prerequisite for fairer prices.
Accordingly, we are pleased that the Pharmaceutical strategy for Europe rightly identifies that the ”lack of transparency of research costs or return on investment can influence decisions that impact affordability and ultimately access for patients”. Transparency throughout the pharmaceutical system can increase knowledge about prices and improve the bargaining position of buyers. International cooperation is another lever enabling Member States to adopt common positions and pool their resources.
The cancer leagues believe that incentives should meet patient needs and that more should be done to sdirect public and private R&D towards areas where treatment options are limited, survival low and/or commercial interest low. EU policymakers could also explore how universities and non-profit organizations can best contribute to the development of innovative medicines, and how EU policies can foster an academic pathway for cancer drug development.
Given that many medicines never reach half of EU Member States while companies benefit from incentives granted by legislators, EU pharmaceutical legislation must ensure that the level of incentives is linked to the newsAl availability, accessibility and affordability pharmaceutical products across Europe and adopt a system to ensure that clinical trials lead to evidence on the added clinical value of the treatment.
Last but not theFinally, patients and participatory decision-making must be at the center of the drug development process. Only by meaningfully involve patients Throughout the development process, can we ensure that new therapies add value to people battling cancer and fill research gaps in areas of unmet need.