From Tokyo to Brussels: debating HTA and the value of cancer medicines

Many of us in Brussels who follow the EU health agenda know that health technology assessment (HTA) is a big topic this year. The topic is live outside the Brussels bubble as well, with HTA players meeting today in Tokyo to look at the world-wide issues at the 2016 HTAi (Health Technology Assessment international) Annual Meeting. This year’s theme ‘Informing Health Care Decisions with Values and Evidence’ mirrors challenges being discussed nationally, among governments and healthcare professionals at all levels.

HTA has an important role to play when it comes to providing evidenced-based information about the safety, efficacy and the social benefits of new medicines. But HTA has limitations too. For example, current HTA processes often don’t account for the expanding value footprint of innovative treatments, a common situation in cancer medicines. Why is that so important? It’s important because cancer is a complex disease affecting millions of people and breakthroughs are rare. Instead, as a study from the Office of Health Economics found, progress tends to move forward in a continuous manner with one discovery building on another and often with individual treatments being progressively used earlier in the disease, in other cancer indications, in different combinations and so on. This situation, quite specific to cancer, means that assessing the value of cancer treatments at the initial moment of approval and (health technology) assessment is not always able to assess the full value of a medicine, which becomes evident over time.

This is a real challenge for HTA, and one that can’t be resolved without exchanging knowledge among stakeholders involved in HTA decisions. At Lilly, we are helping enrich the pool of evidence and knowledge on this topic through a new online tool, the Continuous Innovation Indicators,  co-developed with Rose Li Associates, through our PACE (Patient Access to Cancer Care) network. This tool highlights the progress made in the development of cancer medicines over the last several decades through the incremental steps in medicine development and practice that have been leading to improving patient outcomes. This tool will be presented at the HTAi meeting in Tokyo. Samuel Thomas from Rose Li Associates said: “the value of medical innovations is hotly debated and often a polarising subject. HTAi presents an opportunity for scientists to discuss the issues and develop evidence-based solutions. We are happy to support such discussions with this tool.”

Back in Brussels and in Europe overall, we are hoping that this tool will help answer the question many are raising: “What will HTA in Europe look like in 2020?”