From innovation to outcomes: the EFPIA annual conference

Today’s post comes from Thom Thorp, Head of Government Affairs and Communications for Europe and Canada & UK Hub Market Access at Eli Lilly and Company. 

This week marked an important get-together for those working in health policy across Europe: the EFPIA Annual Conference (15 June). The discussions spanned from the grand challenges in developing medicines to health economics and data in patient care. Of the wide array of valuable discussions between the industry, academia, healthcare professionals and policymakers, I would like to highlight what I consider to be three important takeaways. 

  • Today and tomorrow, the innovation landscape is promising

We may be at the beginning of decades of great healthcare innovation. In the past few years, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) has approved a remarkable number of new treatments and approaches to significantly improve the health and quality of life of patients across Europe. Planning for the future, a growing amount of resources and human energy are committed to finding genuine solutions for diseases like cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.

In its annual facts & figures, EFPIA shows that investment in pharmaceutical research and development continues to grow each year, on a par with the US. The EU Industrial R&D Investment Scoreboard shows R&D intensity is higher in biopharmaceuticals than any other sector in Europe. This focus on research is for good reason – innovation takes trial and error, but it is a necessity to meet the healthcare challenges today and around the corner. 

  • Europe’s 28 health systems are unique, but they face similar challenges

Governments in Europe are facing rapidly ageing populations, and this carries implications for care of people living with chronic diseases. Take dementia. In Europe, the number of people with dementia is expected to increase by 78% between 2015 and 2050, from 10 million to over 18 million. One estimate shows that one in three people born in the UK in 2015 could develop the disease. Dementia challenges us on many fronts, and will require innovation in welfare, health systems and medicines.

Alongside doubling down efforts to find treatments and a cure for chronic diseases, we need to also focus on improving the whole spectrum of care for patients, from diagnosis to measuring health outcomes. As stated by my colleague Tom Wallace in a previous LillyPadEU post, “We need to simultaneously invest in clinical tools to better detect, predict, and monitor disease progression, as well as anticipate treatment response.”

  • Through collaboration, we can make the most of opportunities to deliver better care to patients

For governments to achieve timely and equal access to healthcare across Europe, the years ahead have their challenges, but also some important opportunities.

For example, as highlighted at the EFPIA conference by EU Commissioner for Health Vytenis Andriukaitis, a strengthened Health Technology Assessment (HTA) network is underway to avoid duplication of national efforts, providing more timely and efficient access to medicines. Ongoing negotiations of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) can give a boost to research and development in Europe and improve access to medicines for patients. Even some of our greatest perceived challenges, like changing demographics, may have their upsides. As mentioned by Robert Madelin, the EU’s Senior Adviser for Innovation, the silver economy and digital economy present a revolutionary opportunity for health connectivity.

Health is at the center of social and economic prosperity in Europe. In pursuit of the right systems to turn innovation into better outcomes for patients, it’s full steam ahead.