Invest in health and medicinal innovation

November 30, 2012


*By Petros Mavrogenis

We have recently been observing the difficulties and challenges faced by many European states. Cutting costs is imperative. Today, more than ever, we must not view costs as mere expenditures but more as an investment, which will bring long term benefits in the broader sense. Could expenditures for health and more specifically those involving the use of innovative medication be considered as an investment? How could the results of using an innovative medicine be measurable?

The value (in regards to benefits) of innovative medication is summarised in three domains:

Therapeutic/clinical benefit: here we refer to innovative pharmaceuticals, which have the ability to treat or prevent diseases, and for which there have so far been no treatments, or whereby the new therapy offers advantages in regards to effectiveness and safety.

Benefit in regards to the patient’s “quality of life”: here we refer to the benefits from using innovative medication, which compared to existing treatment offer patients a better quality of life.

Social/financial benefit: meaning the benefits from using an innovative medicine, compared to an existing treatment, in relation to improvement of the population’s health and general saving of funds.
The benefits from using innovative medication can also be categorised through the prospects from which one assesses this usage. In general terms, we would say that there are two basic prospects here, through which the benefits from using an innovative medicine can be measured:

Assessment of the benefits from the patient’s point of view. The patients’ criteria for such an assessment are usually based on how effective the treatment was (how many patients avoided complications from the ailment or even death), how far life expectancy was extended, what the quality of life was while undergoing treatment and whether possible undesirable side effects related to the treatment were reduced.

Assessment of the benefits from the specific treatment’s employer/sponsor’s point of view (i.e. in countries where there are health systems), which is based on criteria such as the use of invasive methods, reduction of visits to the accidents and emergencies departments (or even the doctor in general), reduction in the number of sick-leave taken, increase in productivity, generally the improvement of the population’s health.
Research and Development pharmaceutical companies have for decades been offering innovative medication, which provide patients and society as a whole with multiple benefits. It is no coincidence that life expectancy has increased by four years since 1990 (global population).

Many diseases that had high mortality rates, such as influenza and poliomyelitis, have been brought under control and restricted from spreading with the use of innovative medications (medicines and vaccines). They have also dramatically reduced deaths caused by diseases such as AIDS, asthma, cardiac arrests and strokes. A study carried out in the USA showed that each of the 436 new innovative medicines that circulated from 1970 until 1991 added (cumulatively) 11,200 years of life in total to the American population. Deaths from child diseases, atherosclerosis, hypertension and stomach ulcers reduced by 80%, 68%, 67% and 61% respectively, during the period 1965-1995.

People today are not only living longer, but they are also enjoying a better quality of life. Today, the need to stay in hospital or undergo surgery or painful diagnostic methods has reduced significantly.

Generally these days, we enjoy more years of life while at the same time remaining active and productive citizens, without being dependent on other people’s care for long.

For all the aforementioned reasons, the majority of European governments consider expenditures for health as an investment. The general health condition of the population is considered a national treasure and is counted along with other parameters in assessing prosperity. So it is no coincidence that the majority of European governments spend a significant part of their GDP as an investment in health. The majority of states are in favour of their publics’ swift and equal access to innovative medicines and treatments, because they are aware of the multiple benefits reaped by the patient as an individual, as well as society as a whole, from using such medications.

*Petros A. Mavrogenis, PharmD Medical Director, is a member of the Cyprus Association of Research and Development Pharmaceutical Companies (KEFEA)