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Ways to promote patient access as a European healthcare priority

We are experiencing a time of polarity in our healthcare systems with breakthrough treatment options developed, but access prohibited. Here, Catherine Owen, SVP of Major Markets at Bristol Myers Squibb, explains why, despite continued COVID-19 pressures, the time is ripe to rectify this situation.

THE COVID-19 pandemic has clearly illustrated that the quality of our national healthcare determines which patients are able to receive life-saving treatments. Now, as waves and variants of the virus continue, we are seeing a fuller picture of the impact strained systems have on patients – namely, those who did not receive critical medical care due to services being delayed or skipped altogether. The consequences are stark, especially for patients with cancer or other chronic conditions. An alarming number have skipped critical screenings or were only diagnosed when their disease had progressed to a stage that means their odds for survival are now lower.

Healthcare systems now face a daunting task: they must continue to fight a pandemic that shows no signs of slowing, while clearing the backlog of cases that had been given lower priority”

Healthcare systems now face a daunting task: they must continue to fight a pandemic that shows no signs of slowing, while clearing the backlog of cases that had been given lower priority. These pressures threaten to exacerbate pre‑existing inequities among Europe’s vastly different healthcare systems. The 14th annual Patients WAIT Survey by the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA) found that the average time to patient access for reimbursed treatments in 34 countries was as long as 504 days, ranging from 120 days in Germany to more than 883 days in Romania. That is on top of disparities in treatment availability: 133 medicines were covered for patients in Germany by 2020, whereas only six were reimbursed in Macedonia.