“There are moves afoot for big players to go back over existing treatments. I suspect the net effect will be to reduce the total number of interventions.”
Fergus Craig, Commercial Director, AXA Health
Treatments that are now experimental may become mainstream – including the use of heavy particles rather than radiotherapy, or the use of gene and cell modification therapies. We will see increasingly personalised drug regimes, from precision medicine in oncology to a new generation of immunotherapy drugs.
Today, these treatments come at a vast cost. Proton beam therapy is four times more expensive than radiotherapy. Miracle drug Palbociclib, found to stall breast cancer tumours by ten months, was initially rejected for NHS use by NICE because the £3,000 a month cost was deemed too high.1 In ten years’ time, the gap in costs between experimental and mainstream treatments might close, while the evidence base builds. But there will still be a great deal of debate about whether the outcome justifies the cost.
So what may happen?
First, businesses may need to look again at whether they’re prepared to pay for licensed drugs and treatment where the outcome does not justify the cost. Could we see the establishment of a parallel body to NICE, tasked with assessing costs and benefits for the private sector? Second, payment for existing drugs and treatments may face renewed scrutiny, if analysis shows they don’t work, or they’re being used on too wide a population.
There is always something of interest happening in the development of medicine and how we access treatment. For example precision medicine for oncological use (genomics) is looking promising and has already made its way into the headlines having attracted a further £250m in funding in the UK, providing a significant boost to research and treatment.2 It will be interesting to see how this develops.
How we keep pace with developments in healthcare
Healthcare is continually changing so we keep a well trained eye on developments, after all it’s something we’ve been doing for over 75 years. We use our data, expert knowledge from our in-house medical professionals, specialist panels as well as partnering with professional medical bodies to provide us with a clear vision of the healthcare landscape.
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* In November 2017 NICE approved the use of the drug Palbociclib, which has been shown to slow the progression of advanced cancer by at least 10 months and delay the need for chemotherapy, for widespread use in the health service in England for the first time.