Monday 05 December 2016

Trust me! I’m an Emeritus Professor…

“There has never been a more important time for patients and patient organizations in Australia to take a role in driving access to new medicines”

Emeritus Professor Lloyd Sansom, Immediate past chair of the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee.

These are the words I have been waiting to hear since I started thinking about the role of patients in the reimbursement process and they were in response to a question I posed to Professor Sansom this week, during the Baker IDI’s Perspectives Forum, themed ‘where your medicines come from and why are they important’.

In a really important step for the medicines industry, the session was co-hosted by Medicines Australia CEO Dr Brendan Shaw, and Professor Sansom. A sort of devil’s advocate show if you will.

Both men gave their own perspective on the medicines industry, including some great debate over the current model for R&D in new drug discovery and the high costs associated with bringing new medicines to market.

Both Dr Shaw and Professor Sansom agreed that in order for the pharmaceutical industry to survive in a climate of economic downturn, it needed to evolve and find more efficient ways to deliver new medicines which in turn will deliver better health outcomes for patients.

Both men also agreed that in order for these new medicines to be brought to market, patients and their representative organizations must mobilize to exert their influence on not only the government and key health decision makers, but the broader public as well.

They agreed that right now, patient organisations around the country had the power to drive behavioural change at the most senior levels and that if they did not take this step, they would be at risk of being left behind.

At this point it is important to note that not all disease states were made equal and as a result, not all patient groups are either. This then, poses a key risk for patient groups who may not have the same level of sophistication as some of their more – dare I say it – ‘sexy’ and consumer friendly cousins, but an issue that Professor Sansom told me he was also quite aware of, and focusing on with a number of industry working parties.

If you have ever been involved with a PBAC submission in Australia, or if you have worked near a team that has engaged with the Committee, or maybe even if you are married to, or partner of a person that has ever been involved in a PBAC submission in the last ten years you would have heard of Professor Sansom.

Professor Sansom has advised both Coalition and Labor Governments through a time of major policy challenges. He continues to provide advice to the Australian Government on Medicines Policy. He is is an international champion for the cost effectiveness evaluation of medicines that are proposed for public subsidy, an area in which Australia leads the world. He has spoken widely on the current and future issues for the fast growing PBS which now accounts for more than $9 billion (Aust.) in annual expenditure by Australian tax payers.

So basically he’s the most influential person the pharmaceutical industry has had to deal with over the last decade.

So do I need to say much more? If patient organisation engagement is not on your list of priorities, you’re going to miss the boat. And if you don’t trust me, trust Lloyd.

Will Collie