MSD pitches case for cancer

By Megan Brodie 2 years ago | In Companies, Regulatory
  • 2 years ago
MSD Executive Director Nicola Richards

4 May 2022

Public funding of innovative cancer treatments is an “economic imperative” says MSD Australia in an extensive new report that both outlines the burden of cancer on the Australian economy and the benefits that could be delivered through investing in innovative cancer treatments.

While MSD’s PD-L1 cancer treatment KEYTRUDA (pembrolizumab) is world-leading, the report, ‘Investing in Australia’s cancer challenge‘, is brand agnostic, aiming to find a path forward to enable faster access to funded immuno-oncology treatments.

The company plans to use the report in its discussions with policymakers about reforms to address the issues it raises, citing expedited reimbursement pathways for promising new treatments; multi-indication funding models; recognising the societal benefits of cancer medicines; and learning lessons from Covid as potential solutions.

Speaking with MedNews, MSD’s Market Access and Policy Executive Director Nicola Richards said the pandemic demonstrated the benefit of investing in vaccines and treatments to keep the population healthy, yet while this principle also applied to other medicines, they were often judged by a different standard.

“Health is the only area of the budget where every single dollar spent is cost-effectively tested,” Richards said. “If you’re going to spend a dollar, then this is the most cost-effective place to spend it.

“Cancer impacts our GDP by around one per cent each year, which is like a pandemic going on year on year on year.

“It doesn’t happen to be a cumulative 24 months like Covid, but it is still one per cent of our GDP negatively impacted by people not being in the workforce, not being able to contribute, not paying tax, not getting their super – all those things.”

One in every two Australians will be diagnosed with cancer by the age of 85, according to MSD’s report, with the country having the highest global cancer rate followed by New Zealand. Around 50,000 Australians died from cancer in 2020 and this is predicted to increase 63 per cent by 2040.

Screening, diagnosis and treatments cost the economy $10.1 billion a year, with 40 per cent of cancer patients being of working age.

Richards says under Australia’s universal health scheme, everyone should expect access to the best treatment and clinical trials are not the best way to provide this.

“If we are all going to be faced with cancer challenges either personally or within our family, what are the treatment choices we want to have?” she asks.

“When drugs are available and registered somewhere in the world, a clinical trial is not the solution to get a patient access,” says Richards. “We should have funded access to registered treatments but we have a 24 month delay at a bare minimum. It is just not acceptable.”

Richards says Australians tend to be early adopters of new technology such as Apple iPhones, but the county lags when it comes to health innovation.

In looking to demonstrate the benefit of investing in cancer medicines, MSD modelled the impact of funding the anti-PD-1/PD-L1 class across 10 indications and found it could result in 47,694 life years gained over five years. Conversely, every year of delay in funding a new treatment resulted in 10,760 life years lost.

With more sophisticated and targeted cancer medicines on the horizon, taking steps to reform and future proof Australia’s reimbursement system now will ensure patients, health services, and the economy “reap the benefits of this innovation for many years to come”, the report states.

“Doing nothing is not an option,” says MSD.

“We can’t be complacent,” says Richards. “We need to keep delivering innovative medicines to patients when they need them. We need to move away from this being just about savings and costs. Looking at it as an investment is critical as no other area of the Budget is more effective.

“If everyone agrees timely access at an affordable price is appropriate, then we should be able to get there together. How doesn’t become critical if we’ve got an agreed endpoint.”

©MedNews 2022

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