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Patricia Van Arnum was executive editor of Pharmaceutical Technology.
Pharmaceutical companies and public health officials gather at the IFPMA Assembly to urge for greater innovation and private and public partnerships to address global health concerns.
The International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations (IFPMA), held a conference late last month with more than 200 public- and private-sector leaders to discuss global-health concerns. The conference focused on how biopharmaceutical innovation addresses health challenges around the world, including diseases that disproportionally affect the poorer regions of the world, and how the private and public sectors can work collectively to address these concerns.
Although recognizing advances in pharmaceutical innovation and related treatments in difficult-to-treat diseases, such as cancer and HIV/AIDs, IFPMA leaders noted the challenges that still exist. “Yet some of our greatest challenges lie ahead with bugs resistant to antibiotics, neglected tropical diseases, and non-communicable diseases like cancer and Alzheimer’s,” said IFPMA Director General Eduardo Pisani, in an Oct. 31, 2012, press release. “We need to expand the arsenal of preventative vaccines and treatments through innovation. In recent years, major inroads on key health issues were achieved through global cooperation. Today’s challenges demand this same level of cooperation.”
Coinciding with this conference, the IFPMA leadership team consisting of John Lechleiter, chairman, president, and CEO, of Eli Lilly, Masafumi Nogimori, chairman of Astellas, and Stefan Oschmann, CEO of Merck Serono called for “a shared commitment to improving global health through innovation” in a Oct. 31, 2012 joint statement. Highlighting innovative advances such as the development of biotherapeutics, personalized medicines, and vaccines to prevent diseases, the three executives also addressed challenges to further innovation. They emphasized that environments that enable innovation , such as intellectual property protection and global standardization of regulatory best practices, are important to further advance the development of pharmaceuticals to resolve global-health concerns.
In the joint statement, Lechleiter, Nogimori, and Oschmann addressed the challenges and opportunities to improve global public health. “We’re seeing the rise of superbugs resistant to current antibiotics. Neglected tropical diseases continue to hobble emerging economies. And cancer, diabetes, respiratory and neurological disorders, cardiovascular disease, and other noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) are a growing burden on rich and poor countries alike. NCDs now account for 60% of all premature deaths around the world, and it’s estimated that by 2030, over 80% of premature deaths will be in low- and middle-income countries,” they said. “Making inroads against these problems requires an unprecedented degree of global cooperation. It also demands that we expand our arsenal of medical treatments and cures through ongoing innovation.”
These pharmaceutical-company executives also addressed the need for cooperation and a multistakeholder approach. “Solving these global health problems starts with a shared commitment to improving lives. The expertise and contributions of the global health community¬—nurses, doctors, governments, foundations, NGOs [nongovernmental organizations], academic institutions, and industry—have dramatically increased access to quality care and medicines, reaching the farthest corners of the world with life-saving treatment and care. Even with these efforts, fighting disease in developing countries continues to pose enormous challenges. Even when effective treatments exist, infrastructure to deliver and administer them is often lacking.”
In recognizing the need to work together, the pharmaceutical-company executives also stressed the need for intellectual property protection and harmonization of global regulatory standards to address global-health concerns. “None of this is possible though without policies such as intellectual property protection, which is the lifeblood of any enterprise generating value from ideas,” they said in the joint statement. “On average, it takes nearly 14 years and one billion euros to bring a new medicine from the drawing board to the pharmacy. Without the ability to protect one’s intellectual property, medical innovation would not be sustainable. And the benefits of intellectual property protection include not only breakthrough medicines, but, over time, a broad range of low-priced generic medicines, which are critical to fighting disease in low- and middle-income countries. Another key step would be to standardize best practices from national regulatory systems so that medicines can get to patients who need them more quickly and less expensively.”
The leaders from Eli Lilly, Astellas, and Merck Serono concluded their joint statement by emphasizing the commitment of the pharmaceutical industry to participate in shared solutions to global health concerns. “Addressing global health challenges is among our most urgent human and societal needs. Working together, we’ve begun to make progress. Our industry will continue to innovate and work with the health community to find new and effective approaches that make life better for millions of people. And we’ll continue to work to help the public and policy-makers understand that innovation is not the problem. It is the solution.”