On 25 September 2018, The European Cancer Patient Coalition hosted a policy debate on Health Technology Assessment in the European Parliament together with the Elisabetta Gardini MEP (EPP, Italy) and with contributions from MEPs Cristian-Silviu Buşoi (EPP, Romania) and Lieve Wierinck (ALDE, Belgium). The ECPC facilitated a well-timed discussion ahead of the Plenary vote in Strasbourg next week, bringing together a panel of patients and multi-stakeholder group of experts, to exchange views with MEPs and the audience.

Health Technology Assessment has become a widely accepted methodology to identify and assess the value of new medicines, and the European Commission proposal published in January 2018, proposes a regulation for future cooperation on Health Technology Assessment. HTA is an important tool to support healthcare payers’ decision-making, clarifying when benefits from new products are significant, and when to exclude products with non-significant benefits. Improving HTA and strengthening cooperation across countries will provide better estimates of the medical and social value of new products.

With over 120 participants, representing a wide range of stakeholders from Brussels, including the European Commission, as well as the Member States, there was an agreement on the need for constructive, evidence-based dialogue and patient-centeredness in the legislative process to ensure the regulation progresses as much as possible before the European elections in May 2019.

Health Technology Assessment plays a crucial role in ensuring the sustainability of national healthcare systems across Europe. The concept of value should go beyond clinical data, including patient-reported outcome measures, such as quality of life, but also wider economic and societal impact medicines have and their contribution to the sustainability of national healthcare systems. We must avoid silos in budgets and in the assessment of value of medicines that is so common in our healthcare systems today. Without HTA – we can’t assess value across the board in all relevant domains and we need a unified, mandatory framework to achieve this in Europe”, said Francesco de Lorenzo, ECPC President.

The European Cancer Patient Coalition appreciates the European Parliament’s Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI) Committee’s steps to address the concerns expressed by some Member States, including Germany whose representative was on the panel, regarding the Article 8, which would regulate the mandatory uptake of the Joint Clinical Assessments reports.

ECPC advocates for a mandatory cooperation and uptake of Joint Clinical Assessment reports as the best option to ensure successful cooperation in this field and provide equal and timely access to cancer therapies which offer the most value to patients and healthcare systems. However, constructive dialogue is needed to overcome challenges of the legislative file and to make sure that Joint Clinical Assessments become a reality in the European Union without detrimental delay.

ECPC is proud to have created momentum on the European Union cooperation on HTA during the process of amending the regulation 726/2004, which was voted by the ENVI Committee and the European Parliament in the first quarter of 2016. It eventually led to the current European Commission proposal for a regulation on HTA cooperation.

As a topic of considerable concern to citizens and having a direct effect on their health and the delivery of their care, the Health Technology Assessment as a process must systematically involve patient representation. The European Commission’s proposal seeks to dismantle barriers to involving patients in HTA, by establishing methods for providing patient evidence. Formalisation of patient organisation involvement in all joint activities completed at EU level, will help ensure that patients are systematically involved in the assessments of non-clinical domains that are conducted at national level.

The European Cancer Patient Coalition will continue to engage in the dialogue with policymakers at the EU level and is supporting its member patient organisations to build capacity to engage with national policymakers and ministries in all Member States.