Health minister: Action planned to make innovative drugs ‘accessible and affordable’ for all

Giving patients access to truly ground-breaking drugs with a proven clinical result and a positive impact on patients’ quality of life is a crucial political priority, Health Minister Andreas Xanthos said on Tuesday.

Addressing the 2nd Conference for Assessing Health Technologies, he said the government was planning initiatives aiming to make ensure that new pharmaceuticals were available and affordable, including the creation of an independent Health Technology Assessment (HTA) organisation within the current year.

Xanthos pointed out that the cost of new drugs had increased so much in recent years that they were now unaffordable for many European citizens.

“The policies followed until now did not ensure either universal and fair access to pharmaceuticals, or the sustainability of the public health system. Our goal is to design a new national policy on pharmaceuticals, a new powerful social contract between the State, society and the pharmaceutical market organisations,” he said.

The minister referred to setting “fair prices” for innovative medication and noted that most drugs were not the product of genuine innovation but followed an already established model with perhaps some minor modifications.

Their approval, he added, was given chiefly through supplementary extensions of existing patents.
“Pharmaceuticals are the sector ‘par excellence’ where the market economy has proved incapable of acting on terms of broader social interest,” Xanthos added, announcing initiatives on three levels.

He said the government will gradually roll out an integrated and reliable national system for the assessment of health technology, which would also enable an assessment of pharmaceuticals with added value, compared with the best available alternatives. The system would also take into account the degree of innovation and carry out a cost-benefit analysis on a social and econmic level, he added.

“We are in the process of designing a transitional stage that we hope to implement within the first quarter of the year and we are also proceeding with planning to create an independent Health Technology Assessment organisation that we hope will be completed by the start of the second half of 2017,” the minister said.

On the second and third levels, Xanthos said the government will seek deeper and closer cooperation on a European and inter-state level regarding HTA issues.

“We have a long road to travel and we consider that, given the mature and sincere cooperation of all parts of the pharmaceuticals chain, we will succeed,” he concluded.