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Experts call for faster access to innovative cancer treatments in Spain

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Access to innovative cancer treatments in Spain must be expedited, medical societies, patient associations, and independent experts have urged, citing concerns over marked delays and a lack of alternatives.

Spain faces a “structural problem” when assessing and funding innovative cancer drugs, with patients waiting an average of 611 days to access therapies between 2017 and 2021, according to a new report presented at a conference in Madrid.

These figures contrast sharply with Germany’s 102 days and Denmark’s 145 days, emphasised Candela Calle, general director of non-profit Fundaci? Sant Francesc d’Ass?s and director of the advisory council for OncoLAB, a forum for knowledge exchange in oncology in Spain, backed by AstraZeneca.

The report, titled ‘Solutions Now: Bringing Innovation to the Patient’, was commissioned by the advisory council of OncoLAB, which is composed of over 20 scientific societies and patient associations.

Experts stressed the evident lack of agility and alternatives in accessing oncological innovations in Spain, while also calling for more systematic methods and greater transparency in drug pricing and funding. The report highlighted that there is “no public information” on the status, feedback, or claims from different participants in therapeutic positioning reports.

Such delays, experts noted, hinder access to innovative therapies, causing Spanish cancer patients to miss out on potentially life-saving treatments and, consequently, a higher chance of survival.

Additionally, the advisory council believes Spain should prioritise “bringing innovation closer to cancer patients”, viewing it as an opportunity from healthcare, economic, and social perspectives.

Calle underscored the significance of investment, citing studies that show every euro invested in innovation can save up to seven euros in care.

The report also mentioned a perceived “stigma” concerning healthcare economics has hindered the timely introduction of new medications.

OncoLAB proposes enhancements in evaluating and funding new therapies, advocating for a “more consistent” definition of pharmaceutical innovation. Experts believe this can pave the way for a consensus on criteria facilitating patient access.

The revision of European pharmaceutical legislation must be expedited, Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) from Spain highlighted during the event, which was moderated by Javier Tovar, EFEsalud director.

Currently, the Parliament and the Council are working on their positions in response to the European Commission’s proposal for a new Directive and a new Regulation to revise and replace the existing general pharmaceutical legislation.

Socialist MEP Nicol?s Gonz?lez made the case that the legislation has been untouched for “20 years”, highlighting the urgency of issues like drug shortages and insufficient drug production in the EU.

European People’s Party MEP Pilar del Castillo emphasised the absence of a European industrial policy, made evident during the pandemic when supply chains were found outside the EU. She insisted on the pharmaceutical industry’s importance and pressed for reforms before the upcoming European Parliament elections.

Meanwhile, Renew MEP Susana Sol?s emphasised that European legislation should prioritise patients, eliminate disparities in access to innovation across the EU, and incentivise the biopharmaceutical industry.

Vox MEP Margarita de la Pisa said there’s work ahead on the reform, advocating for faster, more accessible treatments. She expressed that the solution might not solely be a European directive.

The event also featured Marta Moreno, director of Corporate Affairs and Market Access at AstraZeneca, who stressed the importance of Europe and pharmaceutical companies collaborating to find alternatives for equitable and efficient access to medical advancements.

[Edited by Nathalie Weatherald]

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