Finding Common Ground: Australian Government Seeks Closer Ties With Pharma

The Australian government asks for pharma’s help to ensure patients gain fast access to new medicines



Faster access to better treatment; that is the goal of the Australian government’s five-year health mission – and pharma has a key role to play, says Penny Shakespeare, First Assistant Secretary, Technology Assessment & Access Division, at the Department of Health.

Through a strategic agreement through Medicines Australia – representing discovery-driven pharma in Australia – the government will work closely with innovative companies to overhaul and improve policies and processes.

“We've agreed to reform our processes so that it's easier for companies who are dealing with the government to achieve reimbursement,” says Shakespeare. “We will work collaboratively on how to streamline our reimbursement application and assessment process.”

However, the government’s reach extends beyond drug policy as it seeks to facilitate “faster access to better treatment”, she says. “We are investing in the things that are going to make the most difference to patients. We are also looking to take a more consistent approach to evaluating other major health technologies, using the same approach as for medicines.”

Pharma’s involvement is crucial, says Shakespeare. “We need companies to actively participate and work with us if we are to reduce the time it takes to get a new medicine listed and reimbursed in Australia. We want the medicines industry to bring forward the best products and help us to work through the best way to invest our resources on behalf of the community.”

Improved patient data is a key area for future development. “We recently made a decision to move to an electronic health record (EHR) for every Australian, so everyone will get one unless they specifically opt-out. This presents more potential opportunities to share data about effectiveness – whether for surgical interventions, devices or medicines – for both government policy makers and the people developing products and services.”

However, many challenges remain for the government. “We are dealing with issues around privacy and data security. We have to work through those and bring the community along with us, otherwise it puts the potential benefits from these really important investments in EHRs and medication management systems at risk.”

Another key challenge is the structural shift to become a “health technology assessment leader,” says Shakespeare. “We don't have an unlimited pool of experts in this area in Australia so we’re going to build our capability to provide assistance across all parts of our health system to reduce duplication. We need to make sure we’re not all fighting for the same limited pools of health economic and clinical expertise.” 

Penny Shakespeare will be speaking at the eyeforpharma Sydney conference in October.


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