Experts call for faster access to innovative cancer treatments

Madrid, Sep 18 (EFE).- Prominent medical societies, patient associations, and independent experts pressed for expedited access to innovative cancer treatments in Spain on Monday, citing a noticeable lag and lack of alternatives in the process.

Their demands were outlined in a report titled “Solutions Now: Bringing Innovation to the Patient,” commissioned by the advisory council of OncoLAB, a forum for knowledge exchange in oncology in Spain, backed by AstraZeneca.

The advisory council is composed of over 20 scientific societies and patient associations.

Candela Calle, general director of the Fundació Sant Francesc d’Assís and director of OncoLAB’s advisory council, presented the report at an event featuring several Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) from diverse political groups. They participated in a debate co-hosted by AstraZeneca and Spain’s Agencia EFE, discussing the “impact of European pharmaceutical legislation on the healthcare ecosystem.”

According to OncoLAB’s report, Spain faces a “structural problem” when assessing and funding innovative cancer drugs. The document points out that, between 2017 and 2021, patients waited an average of 611 days to access innovative therapies. Calle emphasized that these figures contrast sharply with Germany’s 102 days and Denmark’s 145 days.

Experts further stressed the evident lack of agility and alternatives in accessing oncological innovations in Spain. They also called for more systematic methods and greater transparency in drug pricing and funding. The report highlighted that there is “no public information” on the status, feedback, or claims from different participants in therapeutic positioning reports.

Such delays, experts noted, hinder access to innovative therapies, causing Spanish cancer patients to miss out on potentially life-saving treatments and, consequently, a higher chance of survival.

Consequently, they believe Spain should prioritize “bringing innovation closer to cancer patients,” viewing it as an opportunity from healthcare, economic, and social perspectives.

Calle underscored the significance of investment, citing studies that show every euro invested in innovation can save up to seven euros in care.

The report also mentioned a perceived “stigma” concerning healthcare economics has hindered the timely introduction of new medications.

OncoLAB proposes enhancements in evaluating and funding new therapies, advocating for a “more consistent” definition of pharmaceutical innovation. Experts believe this can pave the way for a consensus on criteria facilitating patient access.

During the event moderated by Javier Tovar, EFEsalud director, MEPs addressed the need to expedite processes but also discussed revising European pharmaceutical legislation.

Socialist MEP Nicolás González argued for updating legislation untouched for “20 years,” highlighting issues like drug shortages and insufficient drug production in the EU.

People’s Party MEP Pilar del Castillo emphasized the absence of a European industrial policy, made evident during the pandemic when supply chains were found outside the EU. She insisted on the pharmaceutical industry’s importance and pressed for reforms before the upcoming European Parliament elections.

Ciudadanos MEP Susana Solís emphasized that European legislation should prioritize patients, eliminate disparities in access to innovation across the EU, and incentivize the biopharmaceutical industry.

Vox MEP Margarita de la Pisa said there’s work ahead on the reform, advocating for faster, more accessible treatments. She expressed that the solution might not solely be a European directive.

The event also featured Marta Moreno, director of Corporate Affairs and Market Access at AstraZeneca, who stressed the importance of Europe and pharmaceutical companies collaborating to find alternatives for equitable and efficient access to medical advancements. EFE.


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