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News & Trends - Pharmaceuticals

Stakeholders reveal a collective appetite for horizon scanning to advance access to emerging medicines and disruptive technologies

Health Industry Hub | December 7, 2022 |

Pharma News: For the first time, more than 300 stakeholders from across government, medicines and life sciences industry, researchers, clinicians and patient group organisations came together nationally to consider how Australia should prepare for disruptive health technologies.

Medicines of Tomorrow: Australia’s First Horizon Scanning Forum, led by Medicines Australia, was held in Canberra yesterday to promote a greater understanding of new and emerging medicines and to facilitate faster access to these innovations for Australian patients.

The Minister for Health and Aged Care, the Hon. Mark Butler MP, addressed attendees via video message.

“Our Government is very pleased to see collaborations like today. Myself and my team from across the Health Portfolio are committed to improving the outcomes for all Australians and events such as today move us forward in the right direction. I’m looking forward to progress horizon scanning in Australia to ensure our health systems are fit for purpose to bring innovative technologies to patients quickly,” Minister Butler said.

Dr Andrew Rochford, an emergency doctor, medical executive and media personality, led a fireside chat on the future of disruption in healthcare following the keynote address from Medical Futurist Dr Bertalan Meskó.

Dr Rochford commented on his personal experience as a clinician and the current “disconnect between regulation and technology, and the clinical application of that that needs to come together.”

Elizabeth de Somer, CEO of Medicines Australia, noted that the way we view and use evidence needs to evolve to ensure equity of access to novel medicines and disruptive technologies.

She said “What about the small populations where there is no evidence? Or disadvantaged communities with different ethnicities and different genetic makeups? How we view evidence has to move forward as well.”

Four powerful presentations and case studies reflected the latest medical innovations in muscular dystrophy, Alzheimer’s disease, cancer and mental health.

Dr Krishan Thiru, Pfizer’s Country Medical Director, Australia & Cluster Medical Director, Developed Asia and A/Professor Kristi Jones from the University of Sydney presented on equitable and timely access to a novel gene therapy for Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD).

Dr Thiru said “We need funding and service delivery solutions that are as innovative as the treatments themselves. This requires multi-stakeholder dialogue with all participants working together with a common purpose and we need to act with urgency – patients are waiting and they don’t have time to spare.”

A remarkable and bold presentation from Mark Brooke, CEO of Lung Foundation Australia, focussed on patient centricity and equitable access to innovative lung cancer medicines.

He said “If I’m a patient and I’ve been given the opportunity to have a targeted therapy that keeps me alive for seven months to see the birth of a grandchild or the marriage of my daughter, those seven months count!

“And if we talk about patient centricity in that context, then understanding the ability, the ambitions, the life goals, and the capability of the person to be seen as a person and not as a dollar commodity is absolutely integral – particularly when only one in five [lung cancer] patients are alive at the end of five years.”

So, what is the Australian roadmap towards horizon scanning going to look like and how do we get there?

James McDonnell, General Manager, CSL Vifor Australia & New Zealand, contributed to the last panel discussion for the day. He reflected on horizon scanning as the mechanism to help address the barriers to patient access.

He said “Horizon scanning is critical. Some of these things [challenges to access] could be addressed with bold reform and the independent HTA Review. In the medium term…we can take things from overseas and adapt them to the Australian situation. The key words I heard today were ‘timeliness’ and ‘patient involvement’. Horizon scanning is the way to go. How we put that together and engage the right stakeholders, disseminate the information and then commit to it will be the question and the roadmap that we set moving forward.”

Mr Brooke considered the critical success factors that should be considered to ensure that any horizon scanning done in Australia is meaningful. He said “There is an impatience when you’re living with a terminal illness to know what’s around the corner. It’s more soul destroying to know that the system doesn’t acknowledge that corner exists. Sitting down and understanding the lived experience of patients is absolutely integral.

“The other thing is understanding the immaturity of the data system in this country and the frustrations for patients – and that’s got to be a quick win – doing something about that data maturity so that we have a truly joined up system.”

Dr Nick Simpson, Department of Health and Aged Care, commented “The forum outcomes will help inform the HTA review reference group and also the Department of Health in working to advise the government on implementing the recommendations from the House of Representatives inquiry.

“What I’ve got from listening today is that different groups will have different perspectives on what horizon scanning can achieve and how it can be achieved. There is also the issue of whether horizon scanning should be for medicines, medical devices, diagnostics, surgical imaging, or all of it.

“What horizon scanning can achieve will depend on its practical design, how information is gathered, how it is analysed and shared.”

Dr Simpson addressed the appetite for engagement within government to participate in the codesign of the horizon scanning system.

“Engagement will flow naturally from the promise of benefit to that particular [government] division or worker, but hopefully also the promise of a population health benefit. If the purpose and the scope of the horizon scanning are clear upfront, there should be no shortage of engagement from the Commonwealth.”

The next steps to arise from the Medicines Australia forum is a report that will highlight the learnings gained from the multi-stakeholder engagements at the forum. This in turn will define the next phase and lock in commitment from the key stakeholders in codesigning and funding a fit-for-purpose horizon scanning system for Australia.

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