New thinking needed on funding future medicines

New thinking needed on funding future medicines

A report from The Royal Pharmaceutical Society entitled New Medicines, Better Medicines, Better Use of Medicines is calling for a new covenant to be developed between the pharmaceutical industry and wider society, including Government, to accelerate and incentivise the development of new types of tailored medicines and treatments.

Professor Christine Bond, from the University of Aberdeen’s Institute of Applied Health Sciences, is Chair of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society Expert Advisory Panel for Science, which produced the report, launched at the Royal Society in London last week.

The report highlights that long-term conditions such as heart disease, which are currently managed through the provision of effective but non-curative treatments, are in the sights of scientists who are developing treatments which aim to eradicate, rather than just manage, symptoms in specific groups of patients.

It spells out both the advances ahead as well as the limitations of current business and funding models to deal with a future where pharmaceutical companies will no longer be able to rely on “one-size fits all” blockbuster medicines for patients.  

The report includes seven recommendations to address the major challenges identified. In concluding  her talk at the Royal Society, Professor Bond said: “If each and every one of us contributed to just one of these recommendations, the report really would make a difference and ensure we have new medicines, better medicines and better use of medicines in the future.”

Professor Jayne Lawrence RPS Chief Scientist said: “We are living in an incredibly exciting age, where the human genome is being decoded and scientists are examining how we can cure diseases rather than just offer symptomatic relief. 

“However, the market is not set up to incentivise the production of new types of medicines. The current crisis in antimicrobial resistance is in part due to the lack of new classes of antibiotics coming on the market.

“Antibiotics can cure infections in weeks, so the volume of sales of drugs is low. This doesn’t allow the tens or even hundreds of millions required for research and development to be recouped.

“We need the NHS to be able to cope with funding treatments which have a high initial cost but may not require a lifetime of use by patients. Unless we find a way to develop treatments that cure illnesses in months, rather than treat symptoms for years, we will not see the breakthroughs that both scientists and patients want.”

Kevin Shakesheff, Professor of Advanced Drug Delivery and Tissue Engineering, University of Nottingham said: “Future medicines will be highly personalised, for example using stem cells and regenerative drugs to treat patients after a stroke, heart attack or spinal cord injury. 

“These treatments will transform medicine but we face major hurdles getting them into widespread clinical use.  They present new problems in manufacturing, safety and economics and require new ways of working across disciplines in order to accelerate commercial and clinical success.”

Richard Bergström, Director General, European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations, said: “There is a lot of excitement in my industry about all the targeted medicines that are in the pipeline. 

“However, there is also concern that the regulatory requirements and way forward for developing new drugs are not clear. We need the regulators to move with the science and update their guidelines as our understanding of disease changes.

“We have a duty to deliver the new science to patients as quickly as possible.  Both regulators and organisations that pay for drugs need to come together and jointly consider what evidence should be developed.” 

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