The funding of innovative therapies is certainly a challenge for all health systems worldwide. The COVID crisis has reinforced the importance of a well‐functioning health system and of innovation. Innovation starts with the scientific community and requires an adequate research and development infrastructure, says Amaya Echevarría, General Manager of Gilead Sciences, in an interview with FOPI.flash. Therefore, we need to establish strong networks to position Austria also in international competition.
You have been able to gather international experience and undoubtedly have a differentiated view of the Austrian health sector. What trends do you perceive? How is the value of pharmaceutical innovations seen?
Over the past months, the Austrian health care providers were able to deal well with several challenges in the management and care of patients. The importance of research and production capabilities on a global and local scale has been demonstrated. The broad public now strongly benefits from the value of pharmaceutical innovation.
From a trend perspective, we see the benefit of aggregating data and develop digital solutions who help to quickly understand disease dynamics, identify promising upcoming drugs as well as support patients in their daily lives.
Also, we see a trend towards specialized treatment options with targeted therapies. These treatments require expertise from manufacturing perspective, as well as from hospitals providing them to patients. We need to ensure a supply & funding system that is efficient across Austria, allowing all potential patients to benefit from such innovations.
What do you appreciate about the Austrian system?
Certainly, one of the great advantages of the Austrian health system is the rapid access to market of innovations, especially in the hospital sector. Austria is usually among the first countries in Europe to commercialize new drugs. This allows patients to benefit from innovations very quickly, which can be crucial in the case of severe diseases.
It seems however that the time from market approval to the provision of the drug has increased in recent years. It makes a huge difference for patients and families, especially in live threatening diseases, how long it takes to receive a much needed medicine. It would be desirable that all stakeholders and regions get alignment to ensure patients across Austria equal and early access to promising treatments.
Can you report on an example from your immediate area that can be emblematic of your assessment?
We are very proud to have been able to transform the challenges related to the COVID pandemic into opportunities by focusing on the needs of doctors, patients and other stakeholders. In that sense our key achievements have been:
- Adapting our narrative to current needs in the context of COVID
- Strong increase of digital initiatives
- Sustained and balanced approach to HCPs during lockdowns
- Increasing support to patients in COVID times
- Internal communication reinforced and acknowledged
Especially I want to highlight the strong professional working collaboration with the MoH, AGES and hospital pharmacies, where all of us were highly committed to bring COVID treatments to patients in need.
What would have to be done to ensure the supply of domestic patients with innovative medicinal products in the future?
The funding of innovative therapies is certainly a challenge for all health systems worldwide. The COVID crisis has reinforced the importance of a well‐functioning health system and of innovation. Innovation starts with the scientific community and requires an adequate research and development infrastructure. We need to establish strong networks to position Austria also in international competition.
Funding and reimbursement for new, innovative treatment options should be considered as investments into patients and our economy. Investing in the health of Austrian people is the foundation for a functioning and flourishing society.
Austria has done very well in bringing innovative treatments to patients and has all tools at hand to do so in the future. We as pharmaceutical industry, and in Gilead Austria, are her to act as a partner in the healthcare system and are committed to be part of the solution.
About Gilead Sciences
Gilead Sciences, Inc. is a biopharmaceutical company that has pursued and achieved breakthroughs in medicine for more than three decades, with the goal of creating a healthier world for all people. The company is committed to advancing innovative medicines to prevent and treat life‐threatening diseases, including HIV, viral hepatitis and cancer. Gilead operates in more than 35 countries worldwide, with headquarters in Foster City, California. Gilead’s Vienna office opened in 2007 as the headquarters of our Austrian affiliate. Our focus is on antivirals (against HIV / AIDS, hepatitis B, hepatitis C and most recently hepatitis D, as well as novel viruses such as SARS‐CoV‐2) and Haematology‐Oncology. 45 employees are committed to offering and maintaining high‐quality service to the medical community and ensuring availability of our products throughout the country.
Bild © Gilead