Personalized medicine is the future of healthcare, offering the promise to deploy cell and gene therapy platforms to once and for all cure diseases – some of which stand without a cure today or which require life-long treatment regimens.
“We’re looking at taking medicines just in the beginning of a treatment, instead of taking it during the patient’s whole life,” says Tomer Feffer, managing director of Bayer Sweden and head of Bayer Pharmaceuticals in the Nordics, as he waxes lyrical over the next step in the evolution of medicines.
While personalized medicine requires an added cost and thorough diagnostics testing in the beginning, there are huge benefits to reap over time both for individual patients and from a health expenditure perspective as it enables healthcare professionals to find the right treatment from the start.
No healthcare without access
While the journey to improved health outcomes may start with pharmaceutical development, Tomer Feffer is careful to point out that the road to patient access may have many hurdles.
“A product that’s been developed and approved by European Medicines Agency (EMA) but that’s not available on the Swedish market brings no value to the patient,” he says.
“With all our products, a week after EMA approval we aim to have the product available in Sweden,” he says, and points out that the right market infrastructure needs to be in place to bring novel treatments to patients.
“For us, first of all that means the regulatory element: Läkemedelsverket (the medical products agency) has approved the product for human use in Sweden, and TLV (the dental and pharmaceutical benefits agency) has assessed it. It also means that the financial aspects are covered; and that the regions will allocate the resources and include medical guidelines to support the use of these products. And last but not least – and maybe the most important part – is making sure that the medical community is trained to use the new treatment,” Tomer Feffer says.
He continues: “As an industry, we tend to focus on getting the right reimbursement, getting the medical guidelines in place, and then we believe that the rest will be done by itself. Unfortunately, this is not the case – in preventive care we still see medications that are reimbursed and well defined in the medical guidelines, but only 10-20% of potential patients are treated with them.”
The key to bridge that final gap, he believes, is for pharmaceutical companies to step in and support healthcare professionals with training and ensure that they have the tools and knowledge to properly use new treatments that come into the market.
Access to personalized medicines
And as for the next generation of medicines, cell and gene therapies also require that the market and healthcare systems get ready for these novel medical interventions. In pace with the pharmaceutical industry’s capacity to bring more personalized treatment options to the market reimbursement models should be modernized, according to Tomer Feffer.
In a world where the healthcare system must no longer cover the price per pill delivered to patients over the course of several years, another financial system is needed to cover the cost of research and development of novel treatments.
“The evaluation of new treatments is done on a traditional basis – if we go for gene therapies, we need to be reimbursed based on outcome and not based on pill,” Tomer Feffer says.
Bayer is currently carrying out a first-in-human clinical trial in the cell and gene therapy area, and aims to have their first therapy of the kind on the market by 2025. Once we’re there, Tomer Feffer says optimistically: “Sweden will become a part of the bio revolution as well”.