Council of the Federation and Ongoing Patient Focused Innovation - a job for us all Part 2 of 2

This is a follow-up blog, part 2 of 2, addressing pharmaceutical policy issues of interest to the Provincial Premiers as they sit down to this Summer's Council of the Federation meeting.

My last blog looked at policies relating to cost containment and the potential impacts on patient access to new medications. For today's blog, I thought I would take a look at the importance of incremental innovation and its positive impact on patient outcomes.

I've looked at a number of aspects of innovation previously here on LillyPadCA:

  • The high level of risk that innovative companies take on in pursuing novel research and how that differs from generic research;
  • That research failures shouldn't be discounted for their longer term importance, and;
  • The lengthy process that innovative drugs have to follow to make it to market and patients.

Another important aspect of the drug development process is the continuing nature of innovation and research on existing compounds as well as new ones. There are a number of excellent examples of the importance of ongoing and incremental innovation:

HIV/AIDS - from death sentence to a managed chronic condition.

This presentation below by Dr. Julio Montaner, Director of the British Columbia Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS and the Chair in AIDS Research at UBC describes the impact of the HIV/AIDS "cocktail" or Highly Active Antiretroviral Therapy (HAART) to prevent transmission of HIV/AIDS. Among those accessing treatment, HAART has transformed HIV into a chronic and manageable condition. This ongoing innovation that looked at new treatment regimes was imperative to moving HIV/AIDS to a managed chronic condition.

Follow-on Drugs and their importance to improved patient health and new discovery.

I was struck by this piece in the Huffington Post Canada by Yanick Labrie of the Montreal Economic Institute which looks at this very issue of "Me-too-drugs." In his article he notes a number of benefits of ongoing incremental innovation including:

  • That apparent 'small improvements' may have profound impacts on patient outcomes due to a number of factors, including getting the medications to work more effectively, improving dosages and treatment regimes, and;
  • That incremental innovation and research can unlock new applications for existing medications that again help new patient groups and improve health outcomes.

These are important reminders for policy makers at all levels of government. I hope that as the Provincial Premiers meet over the next few days, they too find inspiration in policies that support ongoing patient focused research and continued economic growth.