Could COVID-19 spark an era of innovation that supports sustainable healthcare?
Pierre Bourdage via LinkedIn
Nov 18, 2020
The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic continues to have a substantial impact on our daily lives, our economies and healthcare systems, as ongoing focus and resources are directed toward controlling the spread of infections. I’m sure many of you are reading this as you continue to work from home or are taking various safety measures commuting to work, while regularly seeing friends and colleagues in person feels like a distant memory.
So how does this pandemic change our healthcare systems? In many countries, the impact of the COVID-19 response has exposed the lack of durability of current models of healthcare and shown that innovative approaches are required to ensure the long-term sustainability of healthcare systems. In particular, disruptions to diagnosis and treatment pathways during the pandemic for diseases such as cancer have the potential to cause significant harm to the long-term health of patients while adding further pressure on health systems in the long run. While the focus continues to be on limiting COVID-19 spread, it’s important that we act now to simultaneously find solutions to these other challenges. Otherwise we run the risk of being like the proverbial frog in slowly boiling water, unaware of the situation until it is too late.
Necessity is often seen as the mother of invention, and right now we need to think and act differently. To create sustainable healthcare systems in the long run, while maintaining a high standard of patient care within the current austere environment, healthcare payors and providers will likely be focusing on where they can make the biggest impact. This includes identifying “innovative” interventions, actions, and strategies which allow the treatment of more patients at a more affordable price point to secure the sustainability of the healthcare systems. And that is exactly where biosimilars come into play.
Leveraging biosimilars to unlock innovation
Introducing biosimilars directly translates into more competition, which provides more room for innovation. These examples range from the creation of longer acting versions of medicines, medicines that can be kept out of the fridge for longer periods of time, allowing patients to take their medicine while on holiday or travelling, new devices to make injections easier, to new patient support services to best meet their needs.
Hand on heart - an innovation is only maximizing its real purpose, when it reaches the people who need it. The availability of biosimilar medicines gives healthcare systems the opportunity to reevaluate patient treatment pathways, investing cost savings into new, innovative medicines while importantly expanding patient access.
Innovation + access = impact
As more and more reference biologics come off patent, the case for biosimilar use is increasingly compelling for healthcare systems. However, there are still several factors stifling uptake, and in turn, patient access to these vital medicines. This falls broadly into two categories: creating a sustainable and equitable market for biologics including biosimilars based on increased competition, and improving physician and patient education related to biosimilars.
Today, Europe has the world’s largest biosimilar market, accounting for approximately 60% of the global market, and growing annually. This can largely be attributed to a variety of favorable incentives and policies implemented by European countries to promote market access and uptake of prescription biosimilars. However, while health systems across Europe can benefit from greater biosimilar competition, the diversity in health policies means that there is no one-size-fits all, and each country will have to identify their own approach that balance cost savings with long-term sustainability. This was demonstrated in recent work by IQVIA, in collaboration with Medicines for Europe, which created national scorecards for biosimilar sustainability based on market measures and current national policies in 12 European countries.
Meanwhile in the US, where biosimilars have also been gaining momentum, biosimilar manufacturers have to mitigate legal hurdles, ensure appropriate formulary access and fight against misinformation to facilitate uptake and increase patient access to these safe, effective and more affordable medicines. There is still a lot of work to be done on the latter, as many healthcare providers and patients do not fully understand the concept and benefits of biosimilars. In one of my next articles, I will share more about fighting misinformation with adequate education on biosimilars.
Despite the current challenges and maybe even fueled by the need to find more sustainable solutions, I believe that good progress is being made and am truly excited about the benefits that biosimilars bring to patients and healthcare systems – today and in the future.
Do you have an example how biosimilars have triggered innovation? Please do share here.