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Andrew Witty calls for joint working

Andrew Witty, CEO of GSK and president of EFPIA, has called for a "new dialogue" between governments and the pharmaceutical industry

Andrew Witty, CEO of GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), has called for a "new dialogue" between governments and the pharmaceutical industry in order to deliver patient access to better medicines and enhance Europe's competitiveness as a base for R&D investment.

In his first speech as the president of the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA), Witty stressed the need to encourage development of innovative medicines and vaccines that address unmet medical needs and the importance of giving patients a 'true and proper role' in healthcare decision making.

Speaking at the opening of the 2010 EFPIA General Meeting in London, Witty said: "Many countries in Europe are facing significant pressures in healthcare policy, which have been compounded by the financial crisis. We need a new dialogue between industry and governments to address the difficult questions facing us all, on affordability and on innovation."

He criticised the recent decision by Novo Nordisk to remove some of its modern insulins from the Greek market after authorities announced plans to cut prices. "That kind of action isn't necessarily helpful to the debate that is going on at the moment. We've got to find ways to stay at the table and be constructive. Walking away from the table isn't, I think, necessarily the right step," Witty said.

Novo Nordisk has since resumed supplying its products to Greece after authorities raised prices to levels deemed 'acceptable'.

Witty also lent his support to the European Medicines Agency (EMA) taking a greater role in establishing the effectiveness of a product. At present, new drugs in Europe have to be approved by the EMA before organisations in individual countries, such as the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) in the UK, decide whether the product offers value for money compared to other treatments.

Witty said: "There is a certain degree of appeal to having a rational evidence-based relative efficacy or effectiveness discussion once in Europe rather than having it 27 times and potentially answered 27 different ways. Provided that didn't become a further reason to delay approval or access to the medicine, I think that is something that over time the industry could work towards."

Acknowledging budgetry constraints, Witty said that common, shared understanding of value between the industry and authorities was critical, prior to and after marketing authorisation: "Let's start looking at medicines expenditure as an investment. This will enable governments and industry to set a strategic agenda for health and pharmaceutical innovation. What matters is whether a medicine works, responds to patient needs, and, if so, that it is rewarded."

22nd June 2010

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