Reflections on sustainability and innovation in the pharmaceutical sector


To kick off the proceedings of the roundtable "Needs, proposals, solutions of the pharmaceutical industry engaged in healthcare for a new industrial policy in Italy," moderated by Rossana Boldi - former Vice President of the XII Commission (Social Affairs) of the Chamber of Deputies, and Enrico Rossi - Responsible for relations with the Regions at Motore Sanità, was Umberto Comberiati, CEO of Teva Italia, Vice President of Egualia, who provided significant contributions.

Equivalent Drugs: a Pillar of Healthcare and Industrial Sustainability

“The virtuous role of equivalent drugs - says Comberiati - is to ensure sustainability and universality of access to quality care, freeing up resources to introduce innovative drugs. A mechanism that sees us strongly involved also in terms of production considering that about 75% of drugs consumed globally are produced in Europe by generic drug companies, with Italy ranking second among international producers. However, the prospects of this virtuous mechanism are now heavily at risk: in the last 10 years, 26% of generic drugs, 33% of antibiotics, and 40% of oncology drugs have disappeared from European markets, and the number of generic drug manufacturers has decreased by 30-40%, often leaving only 1-2 suppliers. In this context, Teva represents a particular reality, focused both on access to care, thanks to generic drugs, and on addressing new unmet needs, thanks to the development of innovative drugs, with a global investment in 2023 of over 1.3 billion dollars (9% of its turnover). In Italy, in particular, Teva is present with 4 active ingredient production sites and, clinically, has involved 43 centers for studies on a drug for migraine prevention and is involving 12 centers for phase II studies on an innovative drug for chronic inflammatory bowel diseases. It becomes clear, therefore, how it is essential to link industrial sustainability to public health interests with simple and clear rules, to ensure predictability for companies and restore competitiveness to the off-patent sector, which suffers from aggressive and unsustainable pricing policies and skyrocketing production costs. It is necessary to ensure adequate remuneration for products on the market, especially for lower-cost drugs, by including a rewarding quota for pharmacies related to the dispensation of drugs aligned with the reference price, for which patients do not pay a co-payment. Furthermore, it is necessary to reconsider the payback mechanism for off-patent drugs - a distortion for products already at low prices that contribute to containing spending - especially for direct purchases".

Pharmaceutical Research: engine of Innovation and Sustainability

Onofrio Mastandrea, Regional Vice President, General Manager Italy, Incyte, emphasizes the crucial importance of research in the pharmaceutical industry and its significant impact on the country's economy.

"When considering the value brought by the pharmaceutical industry to the country, we cannot overlook the contribution made by research," he says. "Research is an investment in the future and, at the same time, generates value in the present. Today, our sector invests more than any other in R&D, nearly 2 billion euros in 2022. We know that every euro invested in a clinical trial generates nearly 3 euros in benefits for the National Health Service. If we want these investments to continue to grow and generate value for the entire system, it is essential to make them sustainable. The recipe is simple: clear rules are needed, frameworks capable of incentivizing public-private collaboration, and above all, the awareness that research is a strategic pillar for the country's future".

The Strategic Vision for the Future of the Biotechnology Sector

Federico Viganò, Member of the Presidency Council of Federchimica Assobiotec, shares an exciting perspective on the evolution of the biotechnology sector and its growing role in national and European policies.

"We are extremely pleased to see that biotech is increasingly at the center of national and European political strategies," confirms Viganò. "Just a couple of days ago, in fact, the European Commission released a communication titled 'Building the future with nature: Boosting Biotechnology and Biomanufacturing in the EU,' where the sector is identified as part of the solution to address social and environmental challenges, competitiveness, economic growth, and strategic autonomy. In Italy, reflections on the sector find space and attention in various ministerial tables where work is being done for patients, clinical research, advanced therapies, but also for the country's economic development and the internationalization of the sector. What the sector needs now, from our perspective, is a strategic and long-term vision. A systemic approach in which research, development, production, and access to innovative solutions can grow and feed off each other. In practical terms, this means developing skills, incentivizing and financing the creation and development of innovative start-ups, making research and collaboration between public and private sectors simple and effective, quickly offering new therapies to patients, but also ensuring clear and stable rules. All stakeholders must be involved in a collective project, and the many different interests must find a common synthesis."

Investing in Health for Socio-Economic Growth

Finally, Domenico Lucatelli, Market Access Director at Angelini Italia, emphasized that healthcare spending should be considered an investment that produces positive effects on both health and the economic and social growth of the country, rather than just a cost item.

"Companies and healthcare institutions," Lucatelli concludes, "should move from a logic of cost comparison to a participatory dialogue that sees the improvement of healthcare outcomes and the quality of life of patients as the outputs to be measured in the evaluation of new technologies. Improving the speed and equity of access to new treatments, evaluating new technologies from the patient's perspective could represent the first steps to ensure a generation of health that generates a virtuous cycle between innovation and sustainability".

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