What Bern knows that Pretoria doesn't -- but should

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  • 05/23/2014

Facts that don’t reinforce your cognitive mapping are pesky things. 

When it comes to the value of innovative medicines, keywords such as welfare impact, cost-effectiveness, innovative drugs, economic evaluation, quality-adjusted life year are often used to explain why both licensure and reimbursement is deferred or denied.

The opposite is true.

In fact, those very key words are tagged in a new Frontiers in Public Health article, Estimating the potential annual welfare impact of innovative drugs in use in Switzerland

In this new study, Swiss academics have estimated that the introduction of innovative pharmaceuticals provided substantial welfare gains to Swiss patients and the health system.

The authors find that "The introduction of innovative pharmaceuticals since 2000 onward to the Swiss market led to a potential welfare gain of about CHF 781 million in the year 2010."

Here’s the abstract:

Expenditure of health care systems are increasing from year to year. Therefore, this study aimed to estimate the difference in costs and benefits of innovative pharmaceuticals launched 2000 onward compared to standard treatment on the national economy of Switzerland in 2010. The approach and formula described in the pilot study by Tsiachristas et al., which analyzed the situation of welfare effects in the Netherlands, served as a model for our own calculations. A literature search was performed to identify cost–utility or cost-effectiveness studies of drugs launched 2000 onward compared to standard treatment. All parameters required for the calculation of welfare effects were derived from these analyses. The base-case threshold value of a quality-adjusted life year was set to CHF 100,000. Overall, 31 drugs were included in the welfare calculations.

The introduction of innovative pharmaceuticals since 2000 onward to the Swiss market led to a potential welfare gain of about CHF 781 million in the year 2010. Univariate sensitivity analysis showed that results were robust. Probably because of the higher benefits of new drugs on health and quality of life compared to standard treatment, these drugs are worth the higher costs. The literature search revealed that there is a lack of information about the effects of innovative pharmaceuticals on the overall economy of Switzerland.

Our study showed that potential welfare gains in 2010 by introducing innovative pharmaceuticals to the Swiss market were substantial. Considering costs and benefits of new drugs is important.

Nations such as South Africa (where the Medicines Control Council is taking 4-5 years to approve medicines that are globally commercialized) should take notice.  If innovative medicines aren’t even licensed within months of their globalization, talking about prices is just a hypothetical exercise.

Imagine all the mortality, morbidity and … costs that could be avoided if people had access to innovative medicines.

Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored. -- Aldous Huxley

Center for Medicine in the Public Interest is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization promoting innovative solutions that advance medical progress, reduce health disparities, extend life and make health care more affordable, preventive and patient-centered. CMPI also provides the public, policymakers and the media a reliable source of independent scientific analysis on issues ranging from personalized medicine, food and drug safety, health care reform and comparative effectiveness.

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