European Patient Groups Call for HTA Improvements

The COVID-19 pandemic has made one point clear for advocates: Health technology assessments across Europe could work better and more efficiently.

Health technology assessments, or HTA, examine a medication or device’s value.  When done well, they can improve transparency and speed access to new treatments.  But when each country carries out assessments independently, the results can be burdensome and duplicative.  

So explained a recent webinar from the European Patients Forum and EURODIS – Rare Diseases Europe.  

The webinar explored advocates and policymakers’ desire for a more efficient, streamlined approach to health technology assessment in Europe.  Several points became clear: 

  • Avoiding duplication & sharing expertise can increase efficiency. 
    Marcus Guardian of EUnetHTA noted that health technology organisations were “incredibly busy” during the pandemic – perhaps because many were concurrently assessing the same products, treatments and diagnostics.  He emphasised the value of joint work.  

    Guardian also noted that health technology organisations can struggle to gain access to the right experts at the right time.  Sharing resources and expertise for the good of all EU health technology assessments could help.  
  • Meaningful patient involvement is a must.  
    Matteo Scarabelli of EURODIS explained that patient organisations have proactively offered solutions to some of the issues surrounding HTA.  He also argued that the quality of HTA findings requires engaging experts – including patients and physicians.  Asking them to comment on a report after it’s already completed “isn’t engagement,” Scarabelli noted.  

    Russell Wheeler, a patient representative from the UK’s LHON Society, emphasised that policymakers, “need to engage patients if we want to win this battle.”
  • Legislative efforts continue to evolve.
    EU-level legislation on health technology assessment has been under development for some time.  As envisioned, the EU would provide a clinical assessment of new drugs, as well as certain new devices.  Then member countries would make independent decisions about pricing and reimbursement. 

    The proposal has evolved over several years.  Then COVID-19 acted as a “wake-up call,” explained Vallentina Strammiello of the European Patients Forum, underscoring the need for cooperation.  Tiemo Wölken, a member of the European Parliament, emphasised that the exchange of details on personal protective equipment and diagnostics might have been quicker with a cooperative system in place. 

However policymakers move forward from here, the webinar made clear that the voices and values of patients must remain at the forefront – with individual health technology assessments as well as with the broader dialogue on EU-level HTA cooperation.

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