Part One: Leading innovation and collaboration

By - World Pharmaceutical and Biotech Journal

Part One: Leading innovation and collaboration

Continuing a series of webinars concentrating on ‘Unleashing the potential of Global Britain for life sciences’, co-hosted by IQVIA and Public Policy Projects (PPP), a coalition of leaders in UK life sciences discussed the UK’s role in global life sciences when it comes to leading innovation, access and uptake.

Chairing the conversation was Angela McFarlane, UK & Ireland Senior Market Development Director at IQVIA.

As always, to enhance audience interaction, a series of polls ran at intervals throughout the webinar. Angela McFarlane kicked off the session by posing the statement: The future of the UK life science industry looks bright” with the aim to evaluate whether audience members agreed, disagreed or were unsure prior to the presentations and discussion. The results of this poll can be seen below.

Rapid, robust, responsive policy – putting science at the heart of decision making 

Professor Gillian Leng CBE, Chief Executive at NICE, began by reflecting on the changing landscape of innovation in medicines and health technologies. This change is due in part to the Covid-19 pandemic but also because of the pace of innovation: from the digital, data and “real-world evidence (RWE) revolution” that pushes for greater resource optimisation.

This catalyst for change has been helpful in encouraging NICE to do things differently. Acknowledging a major ongoing piece of work over the past year, Gillian Leng reflected on the review of methods for Health Technology Assessment (HTA). With NICE’s methods and processes being gradually built up since 1999, methods and processes for evaluating technology need to advance with the technology itself. Potential areas of change include replacing the end of life modifier with one based on disease severity, clarifying how uncertainty is assessed by committees, and reducing the discount rate from 3.5 per cent to 1.5 per cent.

To get science and evidence at the heart of decision making, Gillian Leng outlined the four pillars of a new NICE five-year strategy: (1) rapid, robust and response technology evaluation; (2) dynamic living guidance recommendations; (3) effective guidance on uptake to maximise impact; and (4) leadership in data, research and science. Internal transformation of NICE will enable this strategy.

Further stressing the importance of collaboration, Gillian Leng hailed new attitudes towards data collection as a key driver of flexibility in the future NICE approach. For her, nothing less than a “transformation of NICE” is expected.

When asked for her thoughts on how the benefits of positive changes to NICE approaches can be translated into accelerated uptake at the Integrated Care System (ICS) level of NICE-approved medicines, Gillian Leng acknowledged the futility in recommending anything unless it results in patient benefit. A key driver for the uptake of drugs that NICE recommends has always been the funding requirement, which Gillian Leng emphasised, “there should not be a funding block where there’s a drug which a clinician wishes to prescribe and a patient that wishes to receive it. ” 

Recognising that there is sometimes a lack of awareness of where new medicines might fit into care pathways, or the risks and benefits of using them, the discussion turned to where the four strategy pillars link with one another. Through “living guideline recommendations,” NICE can put new drugs or MedTech into the guidelines where appropriate. In doing so, NICE keeps a collaborative mindset by moving in the same direction as clinicians, with clinicians thus benefitting from being able to see best practice and evidence of how a drug works.

Responding to a question regarding the timeline for new initiatives such as the Innovative Medicines Fund, Gillian Leng directed delegates toward the NICE website where a high-level timeline frames NICE’s plan to take these projects forward.

Empowering a frontline culture of collaboration

Matthew Witty, Chief Executive of the Accelerated Access Collaborative (AAC), reinforced the appetite for collaboration with an overview of how the AAC brings together industry, government, regulatory, patients and the NHS to accelerate ground-breaking innovation to transform care. With the likes of Gillian Leng on the ACC panel, the Collaborative stands alone as the sole organisation bringing together all of the key players across UK healthcare: from the Medicines & Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), National Voices, the Department for Health and Social Care, to patient groups, training partners and delivery bodies.

Setting out the AAC’s priorities for the next two years, horizon scanning was at the top of the agenda to identify and communicate a clear pipeline of innovations.

The AAC is taking an increasingly local focus to tackle unwarranted variation and health inequality, the goal being to increase NHS innovation and best practice uptake. Alongside the MedTech Funding Mandate, Matthew Whitty highlighted the AAC’s Rapid Uptake Products (RUPs) Programme as one of many initiatives where NICE-approved technologies that don’t have the uptake expected can be supported. The most recent round of product support launched in April and, according to Matthew Whitty, the ACC is already setting out the criteria for “wave three. ”

Patients and public involvement are being placed at the core of the AAC’s innovation work. Matthew Whitty stated that “it is really key that we are engaging with patients to understand what is most important to them and their health outcomes. ” A new Patient and Public Involvement Strategy will be launched by the AAC this year.

Success was in the numbers, with Matthew Whitty providing a breakdown of the AAC’s impact since being provided with its expanded role. Key indicators include the £463.5 million of investment secured, alongside £51.5 million of in-year savings for the NHS. They’re working with 2,782 innovators, with 742,975 patients accessing these innovations (50 per cent of eligible patients). When it comes to patient benefits, estimates include 12,633 fewer admissions, with 125,289 fewer days spent in hospital.

Having completed his first 90 days as Chief Executive, Angela McFarlane asked Matthew Whitty for his message to global innovators looking to be chosen as a rapid uptake medicine. Emphasising that the AAC builds interaction with businesses into their packages of support, Matthew Whitty hopes that innovators would take note of this framework of expectations on both sides. Secondly, Matthew Whitty touched upon the vast academic network the Collaborative can provide to partner companies with a coordinated network approach helping to identify what works or doesn’t work, tracking which business cases are working more effectively and which engagement methods work more efficiently.

A full recording of the session can be accessed here.

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