Gilead's Jaime McCoy says the priority must be a proper strategic review of the NMP

Latest NewsBioPharmaCommentBioPharmaDispatch ExecutiveNews of the Day

In an open letter, the general manager of Gilead Australia and New Zealand Jaime McCoy says the focus must be on a proper strategic review of the National Medicines Policy before seriously contemplating a technical review of health technology assessment.

Gilead is an organisation whose purpose is to create possibilities for people living with serious illnesses, and I am incredibly proud of what we achieve every day.

We research, develop and distribute medicines that can offer significant improvements in health, and in some cases a cure for people living with viruses and cancer.

In 2020, during the COVID-19 crisis, the first treatment for the virus was made available to patients in Australia at unprecedented speed, and it was researched and manufactured by Gilead.

To achieve this rapid access, Gilead’s team partnered in an agile and responsive way with the Commonwealth Department of Health, the TGA, and the federal health minister.

We were all clear on the urgency and the terrifying impact of the COVID-19 virus. It was a disease that was affecting us all.

Every day Australians battle other diseases that are not as common, and it takes far too long to get new and innovative treatments to these people.

The contrast to COVID-19 treatments is stark.

Some die and many suffer while waiting for medicines that are rapidly available in other OECD countries. There is inefficiency and inequity, through a system that focuses on price and not value. Patient inputs are not appropriately considered.

There has never been a better time for a National Medicines Policy (NMP) review, followed by HTA system reform than now.

In fact, it is long overdue, as the current NMP was written more than 20 years ago, at a time when medicines and treatments were less personalised, and in many instances less effective.

This is our chance to commit to change for all patients, to create a vision and a system that reflects a healthy community, and in turn a healthy economy.

We must evolve the NMP to be one that encompasses a longer view of healthcare, and allows us to overcome the challenges that are so evident in the current system.

To do this requires asking for, and listening to robust and public debate. Only once we have agreed on the policy, can we start to reform the health technology assessment system.

We have an opportunity to shift Australia’s medicines provision to one of the best in the world, acknowledging that all patients have the right to optimal treatment and that this outcome will in turn bring both value, and cost savings, to the broader health system and economy.

This is a moment for us all to be bold and to focus on patients - our neighbours, our friends, and our family.

This is a moment when history will reflect our choices, and we - government, regulators, patients, and healthcare professionals - must find unity in the way forward. After all, lives depend on it.

Jaime McCoy