BioWorld International Correspondent

BRUSSELS, Belgium - The European biotech industry is aiming to control the risks implicit in ongoing European discussions on health technology assessment. It took advantage of the 2007 BIO conference in Boston to launch a call for standards to apply in evaluating innovation in health care.

Senior members of EuropaBio, the European biotech trade association, met in Boston with representatives of the German, French and UK medicine authorities, as well as European Union officials responsible for pricing and reimbursement of medicines. During the meeting, EuropaBio repeated its concerns that a trend is developing in European pricing practices which risks leaving patients out of the equation when making decisions on pricing and when putting a value on innovation.

Industry in Europe has become increasingly concerned about health technology assessment methodologies emerging at national levels in which arbitrary or outdated criteria are used to discriminate against new medicines, usually on grounds of cost.

"Some previous decisions by health technology assessment agencies have often left technology manufacturers and patients perplexed and confused," said EuropaBio after the meeting. "While health care spending has to be contained, it is also very important to understand value," it said.

According to Andrea Rappagliosi of Serono, a leading figure in EuropaBio's health care working group, "With methods for determining value varying across regions, countries and payers, each method must require a particularly thoughtful assessment in order to balance the needs of patients and payers with the need to reward innovation."

He spelled out six standards which he said should be applied to health technology assessment at European level, including taking a broader perspective, ensuring early dialog between assessors and manufacturers, removing unnecessary uncertainty from the product approval system, and greater involvement of the public and of patients.

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