The final day of the EAPM Congress in Milan involved two key Presidential sessions.
Interfacing with Public Policy Makers, and the closing session, Who is to do What?
Let’s start with the latter, which had Congress hear that the evidence of the merits of personalised medicine is already ample and the potential is huge.
The benefits are there for the taking for patients, citizens and society, and will bring new levels of satisfaction to professionals working in the health domain.
But, attendees were asked, why is its development and exploitation so slow, particularly in Europe?
EAPM’s executive director Denis Horgan said: “Personalised medicine is the test-case for how far health systems are capable of a rational and reasoned response to opportunity.
“It is also a test-case for how far the supporters of personalised medicine are able and willing to come together in a joint effort to drive the process that can induce constructive change. Innovation is key.”
Congress heard that, in some areas, the EU has had a strongly supportive role in healthcare.
The resulting coordination, to develop science, to translate innovation, to systemise marketing authorisation requirements for medicines and to facilitate quality testing and trials has shown a positive aspect of the EU, and should serve as inspiration and encouragement for more joined-up approaches to tackle new challenges.
Key going forward there will be, for example, an understanding of the potential for personalised medicine to deliver improved outcomes for European citizens, the challenges that it presents to traditional health systems and the barriers that currently exist.
Earlier in the day, the Presidential Session ‘Interfacing with Public Policy Makers’ gave attendees the viewpoint that the innovative quality of personalised care demands links to other areas of innovation.
Eva Weinreich-Jensen, European Hospital and Healthcare Federation (HOPE), said: “We have to educate our hospital staff. There are many things they need to know, and it will take some time.”
Aside from this, “We need the politicians to be careful with the lawmaking,” she said.
Eva added that politicians have to go out and talk to people, as well as discuss ethical dilemmas.
And Gaetano Guglielmi, IRCCS, Italian Ministry of Health, agreed with Eva that: “The training of the healthcare professionals is very relevant.”
Chairing the session, Antoni Montserrat, formerly of the European Commission’s DG Public Health, said that “Things are changing in the field of personalised medicine”, and reminded attendees that: “We will change the political panorama next year, with the European elections. We will have new instruments, Horizon Europe and the European Social Fund Plus.”
And Francesco De Lorenzo, of the European Cancer Patient Coalition, said: “There is no personalised medicine if there is no innovation.”
On patient-organisation empowerment, he said: “There is no innovation without patients,” but added that: “There are problems sometimes to get accepted (in some Member States).”
Mary Harney, former Irish health minister, told Congress that: “The best innovation happens when it’s widely diffused,” and added that: “Healthcare systems tend to be slow at embracing innovations.”
Mary, who is the current chancellor of the University of Limerick, also spoke about the need to look seriously at the sustainability of healthcare, adding that the debate should be a value one – on results – rather than a volume debate.
“At the moment we’re often paying for things that don’t deliver value,” she said.
Francesco Scopesi, Shire Italy, focused on rare diseases and told attendees that it’s highly challenging to develop new medicines and more effective approaches for patients.
“Speed matters for people with rare diseases,” he said. “We need to be quick!”
On access, Francesco reminded policy-makers that: “Bureaucracy shouldn’t be a barrier or hurdle to patient access to orphan drugs.”
Also taking place during day three were additions to the regional track, a dedicated patients’ track, the third day of the Winter School, rare diseases and translational research.
On top of this was the launch of Regions4PerMed, on the 39th floor of the Lombardy Region headquarters.
At the end of the Alliance’s second annual Congress, EAPM’s Horgan thanked all speakers and attendees for making the Milan event such a success.
“Now we have to take our messages to law- and policy-makers,” he added.