Health Comes First
During COVID-19 and in the post-COVID-19 world, better healthcare systems are more important than ever. The main thing that the state has to deal with in the period ahead is digitalisation and data. Furthermore, when it comes to the pharma industry, it is of great importance for the state to define its needs and plans as soon as possible, to show how they expect our help and support.
The issues of the economy and health have never before been connected so closely. With COVID-19 still lingering around and looming over us, we asked FIC Vice President Spokesperson and Roche General Manager Ana Govedarica about areas where the FIC could be of assistance to the Serbian Government in responding to the challenges of economic recovery as it relates to healthcare.
“Investments in healthcare cannot be decreased despite expected economic challenges, on the contrary, they must be greater than ever,” says our interlocutor. “This pandemic has shown how important it is to have a resilient and efficient healthcare system, and how sensitive society is in the case that system doesn’t function right. It is well known that additional investments to secure more efficient treatment result in serious savings. Analysis of even medium-developed countries has demonstrated that it is justified to invest in a brand new therapy, despite the initial costs perhaps seeming high. Simply, every investment in an efficient healthcare system yields returns to society through multiple benefits, and also in other places both within and beyond the health care system. A balance needs to be established between investing in infrastructure and new therapies as soon as possible, especially because innovative medicines – along with the development of new flexible & dynamic financing models based on treatment outcomes – will improve patients’ lives significantly. For example, if a healthcare fund only pays a producer for those medicines that resulted in an expected positive effect there is no risk to the payer. Moreover, investments should be directed towards the benefit for patients being the greatest.
How satisfied are you with the progress achieved in the activities of the FIC working group with the Government of Serbia? What motivated you to include the health minister in consultations?
The FIC recognised the pharma industry as an important stakeholder in the healthcare system, and the Pharma Industry Committee was established as a result. The main aim of this sector-specific Committee is to promote necessary reforms to the health sector and health insurance, and to advocate for the full harmonisation of legislation with the EU and the removal of legislative obstacles. The main priorities, as defined in the Committee programme for 2018-2020, are: Allocation of additional financial resources for new drugs/indications reimbursements; Clear reimbursement criteria setting coupled with transparent decision-making process based upon them and completed within timelines determined by legislation; ALIMS to accelerate and simplify drug registration; Active participation in changes of the relevant laws and by-laws.
A positive trend is the introduction of Manage Entry Agreements between the NHIF and pharmaceutical companies, the quantification of funds required to place new medicines on the Reimbursement List, in the process of normatively resolving the issue of debts owed by some state institutions.
What is crucial for the coming period is steady funding for medicines, while expanding indications through a special-purpose transfer of budget funds to the NHIF and resolving the issue of settling old debts towards wholesalers.
Intense communication with the authorities in preparing the White Book is of great importance, because by exchanging information we reach realistic solutions based on facts.
By including the Minister of Health in this process, we have noticed the state’s greater understanding and greater efficiency for the difficulties that should be resolved.
How will the experience gained by companies in organising work during the COVID-19 outbreak impact on the FIC’s action plans in the period ahead?
Working in the conditions of pandemics has defined a new “normal”. In accordance with that, the FIC must adapt its plans to new needs and companies’ challenges, but also to develop some skills like working on virtual platforms, changes in communication, the organisation of business etc.
Which essential topics related to reforms should be addressed again in order to improve the resilience of the national economy against new challenges coming from the internal and external markets?
During COVID-19 and in the post-COVID-19 world, better healthcare systems are more important than ever. The main thing that the state has to deal with in the period ahead is digitalisation and data. The whole future is centred around data, which will carry us to efficient healthcare.
When it comes to the pharma industry, it is of great importance for the state to define its needs and plans as soon as possible, to show how they expect our help and support… This is of additional importance if we consider that the majority of the pharmaceutical industry operates within large international companies, so it is important for local teams to set priorities for Serbia as soon as possible, and as clearly as possible.
Are you satisfied with the quality of the public dialogue linked to the crisis and what do you see as the FIC’s greatest contribution in this regard?
COVID-19 has put the entire world in an unenviable situation. When you have to walk through fog, mistakes and poor assessments are possible. Therefore, public dialogue is of utmost importance, in order to create a better community for all of us.
The FIC can contribute by pointing out threats and opportunities, as well as by transferring experiences that companies have gained on other markets.
Considering the FIC’s experience in working with the government, what would you recommend to the new cabinet when it comes to cooperating with the business community?
Intensive dialogue between the Government and business communities is of the utmost importance if we want to build a sound business climate and contribute to the growth of the entire society.