Health system needs to recognise patient benefits of new medicines, says new report

A new international report released this week highlights the importance of governments and the health system recognising how new medicines get developed.

The Many Faces of Innovation, produced by the Office of Health Economics in the United Kingdom, found that incremental innovation is just as important to developments in medicine as miracle breakthroughs.

Medicines Australia chief executive Dr Brendan Shaw said today: “This new report shows that governments, evaluators and academic commentators often don’t recognise innovation as an important part of providing new treatments for patients.

“We frequently hear from evaluators and experts that a medicine is either ‘innovative’ or ‘not innovative’, assuming that such a black and white distinction can be made.

“In fact, much of the technological development in medicines is gradual, progressive improvement on earlier treatments that over time leads to major improvements for patient health.

“Cancer treatments are a great example. While individually each new cancer treatment may only extend a patient’s life by a few months, we know that the cumulative effect of these improvements has increased the average lifespan of a cancer patient by four years.

“This new report shows that patients benefit from incremental improvements in medicines in a number of ways, be it incremental improvements in life expectancy, fewer doses being required, fewer side effects or cheaper costs.

“For some reason, as a society we seem to welcome incremental technological innovation in products like cars, aircraft or vacuum cleaners, but when it comes to medicine this is often dismissed.

“The problem is that when governments are hell bent on cutting costs this distinction often gets lost and the benefits to patients and the community are ignored.

“Medical experts or financial accountants sometimes criticise incremental improvements as not being important. Yet such improvements can be enormously beneficial to a patient outcome.

“Now more than ever, when governments around the world are trying to cut expenditure on medicines in an effort to save money, it is imperative that we don’t lose sight of the benefits of incremental improvements in medical technology.

“Otherwise we run the real risk that while we may save a few dollars in a budget line item, ultimately Australians will miss out on improvements in medical technology that will benefit them and their families.


“This is an important report about the future of medical care and I encourage policymakers and academics making judgements about the worth of new treatments to read it.”

The report, commissioned by the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry, can be found at:


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