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Policy and initiatives roundup: June 2017

The latest policy and cross-sector initiatives in cancer prevention and care.

Cancer Resolution at the 70th WHA: a push for integrated national cancer plans

Delegates at the 2017 World Health Assembly entered a marathon of consensus-finding and decision-making, including the allocation of the 2018/19 budget and the well-received election of Ethiopia’s Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus as new Director-General of the World Health Organization. Non-communicable diseases, including cancer, were high up the agenda. An important step was the adoption of the Cancer Resolution on cancer prevention and control. The Resolution pledges to support member states to integrate cancer control plans into their national health strategies. It also commits to publishing a technical report in 2019 on pricing and value in cancer care.

All.Can supports the Resolution, which calls for improved access to timely diagnosis and treatment, and improved data to inform policy decision-making.

CODE: filling the data gap?

As the All.Can policy report highlights, investment in data is a key strategy towards achieving efficiency in cancer care. Currently, data about the real-world use of anti-cancer medicines are patchy and often collected retrospectively.

The Collaboration for Oncology Data in Europe (CODE) is a new collaboration established by QuintilesIMS with support from leading biopharmaceutical companies. It was set up to form a European anti-cancer medicines usage data network. CODE aims to ‘provide clearer and more proactive insight into how anti-cancer treatments are used in a real-world setting across key European markets’ through timely and consistent data collection. It is hoped that the data collated will enable the oncology community to gain insights into real-world prescription and usage of cancer drugs, thus improving the use of these drugs for patients.

Cancer medicines shortages: the struggle to find a European solution

Over half of European countries have experienced shortages of cancer drugs, caused by supply-chain, business and economic issues. Such shortages can result in failure or delays in treatment, and may require healthcare providers to opt for more expensive alternative drugs. Unfortunately, there is a lack of data, awareness and accountability around these shortages, as a new White Paper by the Economist Intelligence Unit highlights. The paper was commissioned by the European Society for Medical Oncology and presents six policy recommendations to address the shortage, such as: legally requiring manufacturers to notify countries about shortages early on; establishing national action plans; and consistently monitoring and reporting on medicine shortage and its causes.

Finding a solution to cancer drug shortages can be difficult within the EU regulatory framework, where national responsibilities are entangled with those of the European Medicines Agency (EMA). Although implementing European-wide actions to tackle the problem is desirable, for now the EMA will most likely have a guiding and supporting role, and the responsibilities to implement change will lie with individual countries. It is hoped that they will establish standards that can be promoted and shared across Europe.