The importance of intellectual property in future pandemic preparedness: MJA Letter to the Editor

The importance of intellectual property in future pandemic preparedness: MJA Letter to the Editor

7 November 2023: Medicines Australia CEO, Liz de Somer, has joined the General Director of the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations (IFPMA), Thomas Cueni, to refute calls for an intellectual property waiver on pharmaceuticals.

In response to an article published in the Medical Journal of Australia (2023; 219: 46-48), Mr Cueni and Ms de Somer penned a letter to the editor highlighting the critical role of the intellectual property (IP) framework in enabling companies to work together to develop vaccines during COVID.

“As we address the equity challenge, we must not lose sight of the innovation delivered in response to COVID‐19, with pharmaceutical companies producing billions of safe and effective vaccines and therapeutics at a speed very few thought possible,” they wrote.

“This was facilitated by a strong innovation ecosystem, which provides a framework to manage the risks and cost involved in pursuing new medicines and vaccines.”

“Of the 23 mRNA vaccines that went to clinical trials, only two were successful. The intellectual property (IP) framework is core to this ecosystem.”

Ms de Somer and Mr Cueni argue that rather than address the root causes of inequitable access, an IP waiver would undermine the very system that delivered billions of safe and effective vaccines and therapeutics against COVID‐19, and which will be central to our response to any future pandemics.

“Contrary to acting as a barrier to equitable roll out, IP enabled companies to partner on a voluntary basis. The latest data show that over two‐thirds of the 374 manufacturing and supply chain announcements for COVID‐19 vaccines have involved a collaboration — voluntary licensing partnerships, technology transfers and contract manufacturing agreements — between licensors and licensees, and of the 84 active voluntary licensing.”

“Instead, we must focus on the multilateral and regional policies needed, including regulatory harmonisation, supply chain and health care system strengthening, and the removal of trade barriers.”

The letter has been published this week in the latest edition of MJA. View article at


Media enquiries to Kate McKeown, Senior Manager Communications and Media – or 0408 775 288.        

Australian Cancer Plan recognises crucial role of pharmaceutical, biotherapeutics and vaccine industry.

Australian Cancer Plan recognises crucial role of pharmaceutical, biotherapeutics and vaccine industry.

3 November 2023: Medicines Australia welcomes Australia’s landmark national Cancer Plan, which recognises the crucial role of the pharmaceutical, biotherapeutics and vaccine industry in the prevention, detection, management and treatment of cancers.

Medicines Australia CEO Liz de Somer said the six strategic objectives in the Plan reflect the priorities called for by stakeholders including industry and she welcomed the focus on prevention, early detection and treatment and increased workforce capability.

“Medicines Australia congratulates the Minister for Health and Aged Care, Department of Health and Cancer Australia on producing this landmark Plan that recognises holistic change and collaboration is needed to end the devastating impact of cancer on our society.”

“Over the last 40 years, the pharmaceutical industry has invested significantly in the research and development of innovative new vaccines, diagnostics and therapies,” Ms de Somer said.

“This perseverance has led to a new era where genomic testing and personalised medicine are now available and improving the prognosis and quality of life of many patients.

“The Plan recognises this but it also recognises that access to early diagnostic technology and treatment options through the PBS remains the biggest hurdle for too many Australians.

“This must be addressed through HTA reforms if Australia is to have a world class health system.”

Medicines Australia welcomes the commitment to a new policy framework for genomics in cancer control and the establishment of an Australian Comprehensive Cancer Network (ACCN) to share expertise and reduce access inequity.

“We agree with the identified need in the Plan for system-wide, cross-sector, inter-jurisdictional and national collaboration,” Ms de Somer said.

“The pharmaceutical industry will continue to work closely with patients, governments, universities and other stakeholders to advance our health system for the benefit of patients, and ensure everyone has access to the right vaccines, diagnostics and treatments when they are needed.”

Media enquiries to Kate McKeown, Senior Manager Communications and Media – or 0408 775 288.

Medicines Australia announces new Board Directors

Three new Directors and one re-elected Director have been appointed to the Medicines Australia Board at today’s Annual General Meeting.

Anne Harris (Pfizer) was re-elected for a second 3-year term. Gabi Mittas (Amgen), Dirk Otto (Boehringer Ingelheim) and Urs Voegeli (Janssen-Cilag) were elected to fill positions vacated by Stuart Knight (Roche) who is retiring, Ashraf Al-Ouf (Bayer) who has accepted a promotion and is relocating to Singapore and James McDonnell (Vifor) who stepped down from the Board in June 2023.

MA Chair, Dr Anna Lavelle AM, welcomed the new Directors and congratulated Anne on her re-appointment at the Medicines Australia AGM today, recognising their depth of industry experience and commitment to continuing to drive reforms.

“I am thrilled to welcome our new and re-elected Directors – Anne Harris, Gabi Mittas, Dirk Otto and Urs Voegeli – who each bring unique global perspectives combined with a deep understanding of the policy challenges and political landscape that Australia’s pharmaceutical industry is facing,” Dr Lavelle said.

“As we continue to build on momentum for reforms, there are strong foundations in place to address other pressing policy issues that ultimately affect patient access to medicines and vaccines. The harmonious leadership of our Board and ability to unite the industry on shared goals during this period is critical to our success.”

“The strong position that Medicines Australia is in today is thanks to vision and leadership of our current Board, and I thank you for your dedication and drive, and extend my deepest gratitude to outgoing Directors, Stuart Knight, Ashraf Al-Ouf, and James McDonnell who have made a significant contribution during their service.”

Stuart Knight has been on the Medicines Australia Board since October 2019 and served as Chair of the Performance, Nominations and Remuneration committee and on the Independent Health Technology Assessment Board subcommittee (iHTAC).

Ashraf Al-Ouf has been a Director since February 2022 and was a member of the Performance, Nominations and Remuneration Committee and Finance Risk and Audit Committee.

James McDonnell joined the Board in October 2019 and served as a Chair of the Finance, Risk and Audit Committee.


Media enquiries to Kate McKeown, Senior Manager Communications and Media – or 0408 775 288.

Medicines Australia Chair appointed a Member of the Order of Australia

Medicines Australia Chair, Dr Anna Lavelle, has been appointed a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) for her significant service to science and innovation.

Dr Lavelle was named in the King’s Birthday Honours Roll in June and attended the investiture held in Melbourne on Thursday 14 September.

Over the course of her career, Dr Lavelle has contributed significantly to Australia’s medicines, research and biotechnology industries. She has been a pioneer for women in these industries, holding executive and board positions and driving innovation for the benefit of society for more than 25 years.

“Dr Lavelle has been fearless leader throughout her career, combining her extensive understanding of Australia’s medicines and biotechnology policies with deep experience in medical research. Her unwavering commitment to improving patient outcomes and quality of life is resolute,” Medicines Australia CEO Liz de Somer said. 

“Medicines Australia is extremely fortunate to have Dr Lavelle as our Chair and on behalf of the pharmaceutical industry, we congratulate Dr Lavelle on this prestigious and most deserved achievement.”

Twelve recognised for outstanding results in Medicines Australia’s Continuing Education Program

Twelve recognised for outstanding results in Medicine Australia’s Continuing Education Program

26 April 2023: Medicines Australia congratulates twelve individuals, from the pharmaceutical and health sector, for receiving Medicines Australia’s Continuing Education Program (CEP) Awards, which recognise their outstanding results and in depth understanding of the industry gathered during the 2022 course.

Now in their 26th year, the prestigious CEP Awards includes three categories that recognise academic excellence and results achieved during the online course. The CEP educates pharmaceutical company representatives, and those working in industry, to a very high ethical standard so they can provide healthcare professionals with accurate, balanced information to support the quality use of medicines.

The 2022 awards recipients are:-

  • University of Tasmania (UTAS) Excellence Award:  Matthew Nicolaides (Seqirus), and Ahmed Fouad (Galderma) for being high achieving, committed, dedicated and personally engaged throughout Semesters 1 and 2 respectively.
  • The Code of Conduct Award: Matthew Nicolaides (Seqirus)whoachieved the highest mark for Program 1 (The Medicines Australia Code of Conduct)
  • The CEP Achievement Award: The following 10 students received this Award for achieving the 10 highest aggregate marks for the majority of the core programs:
Ameeta NelsonBiogen
Simon KikerAbbVie
Joanne CatubayDKSH
Nicholas SmithBoehringer Ingelheim
Theresa WadeWriteSource Medical  
Benjamin McVeanPfizer
Nicky SchmidtNovartis Pharmaceuticals
Nadia LokanantaEli Lilly
Dinesh SukhavasiBoehringer Ingelheim
Charlotte CookNorgine

“We have been extremely impressed with the level of participation and outstanding results achieved in the 2022 CEP course,” said Elizabeth de Somer, Medicines Australia CEO. “This is an intensive, in-depth course delivered by our partners, the University of Tasmania, and we wish to extend our congratulations to all the award recipients – and also those who successfully completed the program last year.

“It’s wonderful to see the industry’s continued dedication to educating and assisting medical representatives, who serve as crucial liaisons between healthcare professionals and pharmaceutical companies. The collective expertise from this program will prove valuable to both companies and the wider healthcare system,” added Ms de Somer.

Joanne Catubay, a CEP Achievement Award winner from DKSH said, “Medicine Australia’s CEP has helped me evolve from being just a target-oriented medical sales representative, to becoming a more conscientious, ethical and patient-oriented part of the bigger Australian health system. I am grateful not only for the recognition but more importantly for the valuable learning.”

Benjamin McVean, another CEP Achievement Award winner from Pfizer added “The Medicines Australia CEP helped me understand the complex industry and what is expected to be able to provide the right support to healthcare practitioners and thereby their patients.”

The CEP Program is offered online through the University of Tasmania, with 2023 Semester One enrolments closing this week on 28 April 2023. Awards for the 2023 CEP Program will be announced in early 2024.

More on the CEP program is on the Medicines Australia website, along with information about the Award specifics.

A video that features some of the Award winners is available here. Photos of some of the Award Winners can also be downloaded here.


For further information, please contact:

Anne-Marie Sparrow on 0417 421 560/ 


Medicines Australia’s Continuing Education Program (CEP) is designed to educate medical representatives to a recognised industry standard.

The CEP is primarily directed at medical representatives working within the prescription medicines industry but is also recommended to people who may not be currently employed within the industry but would like to pursue a career as a medical representative. It is also available to personnel working for organisations interacting with the pharmaceutical industry.

The CEP contains six core programs, designed to guide medical representatives through the information, knowledge and skills required in the performance of their professional duties. More information is available on the Medicines Australia website.

Medicines Australia extend sincere thanks to Professor Brendan Murphy

Medicines Australia extend sincere thanks to Professor Brendan Murphy

13 April 2023: Medicines Australia extend our sincere thanks and acknowledgement to Professor Brendan Murphy AC for his leadership and significant contribution to the health of Australians.

As Secretary of the Department of Health, and prior to this as Chief Medical Officer for the Australian Government, Professor Murphy helped the country navigate through the most challenging health dynamics of the modern era. His unwavering commitment and strength in leadership not only ensured Australia followed a clear and considered path through COVID-19 but also supported the nation’s strong recovery.

“The unchartered waters of this pandemic era required leaders with significant knowledge and skill – but also the ability to assess rapidly evolving situations and move quickly with decision making.  Professor Murphy was exemplary in his leadership – dedicating himself to the health emergency and giving Australians a calm and reassuring presence each and every day,” states Liz de Somer, CEO Medicines Australia.

“Professor Murphy should also be congratulated for his outstanding medical career from practicing clinician to the head of leading organisations. Professor Murphy has long held an interest in important public health issues, such as the surge of antimicrobial resistance, and I am sure that even in his retirement he will continue to take an active interest in public health policy,” she added.


For further information or media interviews, please contact:

Anne-Marie Sparrow on 0417 421 560/

HTA reform starts today – consultations open

HTA reform starts today – consultations open

11 April 2023: Medicines Australia welcomes the official start of the Health Technology Assessment (HTA) Review consultation that should deliver bold reforms to how medicines are assessed, valued and made available in Australia.

CEO of Medicines Australia, Elizabeth de Somer, said that after 30 years it is long past time for reform to the HTA policies and methods to ensure Australians have timely access to the latest medicines and vaccines.

“We are all patients at one point in our life and our pharmaceutical benefits scheme (PBS), as part of our Medicare system should provide access to the innovative medicines, treatments and services that are needed as quickly as possible. Access should be fair and equitable, regardless of ability to pay or capacity to research what may already be available overseas,” Ms de Somer said.

“This consultation signals the start of a reform process that must introduce long-term thinking to speed up access to innovative medicines for today’s generation and the next.

“The review will run until December 2023 and a rigorous consultation process with all stakeholders – including industry, scientists, clinicians, and patients – will ensure the best ideas and reforms are put forward for government consideration.

“Today marks the first round of public consultation, which will run for eight weeks from today until 6 June.

“Substantial, enduring change cannot happen without the input and insights from everyone across the health and medicine landscape. I encourage all stakeholders to develop and put forward their ideas, present them to decision makers, and stand up for bold reform.

“As a member of the HTA Review Reference Committee, I will continue to advocate for a review that is consultative, collaborative, inclusive and transparent,” Ms de Somer said.

These are the views of Elizabeth de Somer as CEO of Medicines Australia representing the research based pharmaceutical industry and do not intend to represent views of the HTA Review Reference Committee.

Further information about how to engage in the HTA Review consultation can be found on the Department of Health’s website.

For further information or media interviews, please contact:
Anne-Marie Sparrow on 0417 421 560/

New report shows the importance of adult vaccines

New report shows the importance of adult vaccines

30 March 2023: Medicines Australia welcomes a new report that calls for investment in the vital adult vaccines that will underpin the future health and prosperity of our nation.

CEO of Medicines Australia, Elizabeth de Somer, said the new report from GSK Australia, Risk to Resilience: A roadmap to vaccine access for older Australians’, highlights the health initiatives Australia will need to prepare for our growing ageing population and burden of chronic disease.

“Vaccinations prevent deadly diseases and save lives,” Ms de Somer said.

“Historically, Australia has always had a high immunisation rate, yet this latest report shows we need to more to improve access to the vaccinations that protect Australians of all ages – not just children.

“We must especially protect older Australians and currently, not enough people are accessing vaccines that can stop diseases such as whooping cough and shingles, which increase in risk as we age.

“Health should not be linked to location. This report highlights the steps we must take as a nation to close the immunisation gap among marginalised groups – including First Nations people and those living in regional and remote communities.

“The National Immunisation Program has been an integral part of our impressively high childhood vaccination rate, and now that same focus must be applied to equitable vaccine access for all age groups.

“This latest report shows that it can take an average of almost four years before an innovative and safe vaccine becomes available through the National Immunisation Program. We know how important fast access to vaccines is, and work must be done to reduce that time lag.

“This year’s Health Technology Assessment (HTA) review should look at how systems can improve and speed up access to innovative vaccines, medicines, and treatments.

“By keeping individuals healthy, vaccinations can decrease the burden on primary care and hospitals and in turn, benefit both our community and economy.

“The medicines industry is ready to work with governments and to partner with patients and health sectors to reform how vaccines are valued in this country and improve access to them,” she said.

The GSK Risk to Resilience report calls for governments to partner with the medicine industry, experts, healthcare professionals and patients to reform reimbursement systems and processes to recognise the value of vaccines and disease prevention and prioritise adult vaccination in delivery of the National Immunisation Program.

The full version of the report can be found here:


For further information or media interviews, please contact:
Chrystianna Moran – 0424 995 118 /

HTA Reform gets underway – Terms of Reference released today

HTA Reform gets underway – Terms of Reference released today

22 March 2023: Medicines Australia acknowledges the Health Technology Assessment (HTA) Review Terms of Reference – released today – and will continue to advocate for bold policy reform to speed up access to innovative medicines.

CEO of Medicines Australia – and newly appointed HTA Review Reference Committee member – Elizabeth de Somer said that the release of the Terms of Reference kickstarts the HTA Review process which must deliver equitable, timely, safe and affordable access to innovative medicines for all Australians.

“The Australian medicines access system has not seen this type of review in 30 years and rapid advances in health, medicine, and technology, require reform so Australians don’t miss out,” Ms de Somer said.

“The HTA Review is an opportunity to improve our health and medicine system, so it is fit-for-purpose and realises the Government’s National Medicines Policy vision of providing the world’s best healthcare for all Australians.

“Reforms must remove the barriers in current policies, methods and decision-making systems that are stopping patients from having rapid access to innovative medicines, vaccines and treatments,” she said.

Medicines Australia welcomes changes to the Terms of Reference that strengthen the focus on patients and notes the specific mention of additional groups of Australians who experience access equity issues, such as First Nations people.

“After advocacy from Medicines Australia, there is now a stronger focus on having ‘earliest possible access’ to medicines, as well as a ‘person-centred approach’,” Ms de Somer said.

“The Terms of Reference are broad enough to consider system-level policy reforms and will allow all stakeholders to put their issues on the table.

“But this is just the beginning. Health reform like the HTA Review must make lasting, impactful change.

“Moving forward, the HTA Review must be transparent and create appropriate space and time to listen to the views, experiences, and challenges of all stakeholders.

“The House of Representatives Health Committee’s inquiry and the New Frontier report shows there is a groundswell of support for bold reform and everyone involved in that inquiry should have the opportunity to put forward their ideas.

“The Government, medicines industry, patients and health experts must work together that ensure all Australians have better access to innovative medicines,” she said.

Medicines Australia looks forward to the prompt public release of the HTA Review workplan and any discussion papers prepared by the HTA Expert to provide greater understanding for stakeholders and how everyone can engage.  

What is the HTA Review?


For further information or media interviews, please contact:
Chrystianna Moran – 0424 995 118 /

Media statement: CEO’s appointment to HTA Review Reference Committee 

Media statement: CEO’s appointment to HTA Review Reference Committee

14 March 2023: CEO of Medicines Australia, Elizabeth de Somer, has been appointed as the medicines industry representative on the Health Technology Assessment (HTA) Review Reference Committee.

The appointment was made today by the Minister for Health and Aged Care, the Hon. Mark Butler MP, which recognises Ms de Somer’s understanding of the issues, extensive industry experience, willingness to work collaboratively with all interested stakeholders, and commitment to reforming HTA in the best interest of all Australians.

“It is an honour to represent the medicines industry and take part in ensuring the reforms needed to speed up patient access to innovative medicines,” Ms de Somer said.

This position on the HTA Review Reference Committee was previously held by John Young, who has recently been appointed to the Novartis Board and has advised is unable to continue to serve the Committee in a voluntary capacity. Ms de Somer steps immediately into this role and thanked Mr Young for his service to date.

“On behalf of the Medicines Australia Board and the medicines industry, I wish to thank John for his exemplary contribution to the HTA Review Reference Committee and wish him all the best with his new role,” Ms de Somer said.

“John is a globally experienced industry leader and Medicines Australia is extremely pleased with what he has achieved on behalf of the medicines industry and will continue through a prominent and important Board position.

“The HTA Review is a crucial step in improving access to innovative medicines for all Australians.

“Success will hinge on a strong voice for reform and a collaborative approach – I intend to bring both to this important appointment,” she said.


For further information or media interviews, please contact:
Chrystianna Moran – 0424 995 118 /