No funding for new medicines in 2024 deeply frustrating

Eimear Caslin HMI conference 2023
Eimear Caslin

New medicines were essential for patient care and for higher standards of care, positively impacting the lives of patients and those around them and the recent budget announcement that there was no funding for new medicines in 2024, was deeply frustrating,  Eimear Caslin, General Manager, GSK in Ireland told the Conference.

“This is not only a missed opportunity, but a retrograde step for patients in Ireland, that will have a considerable societal impact and is simply not a sustainable position for Government to take,” she said.   

“We appreciate that there is a limited amount of money, but industry has complied in good faith with our side of the 2021 Supply and Pricing of Medicines Agreement, finding over €400m in savings over the last two years, and we in GSK, along with IPHA will continue to challenge this decision to be reviewed. We will continue to be ambitious for patients in Ireland, especially those who will need innovative and lifesaving medicines next year and ensure that they aren’t left behind their European counterparts.  I look forward to working together and continued successful collaboration, so that Ireland delivers the very best standards of patient care, enabling people to live longer, better lives.”

Ms. Caslin said GSK was proud to support the HMI Annual Conference and had done so over many years. It had been great  to hear from such an array of speakers about optimising patient care in Ireland and the strategies and considerations for healthcare integration. As with any healthcare system in the world, healthcare integration was an ongoing process, and Ireland’s healthcare system would benefit from adapting and evolving these strategies to meet the changing needs of the population.

“I’d like to touch on two of these strategies today, Population Health Management and Chronic Disease Management. Firstly, population health management helps in preventive care and cost reduction. As many of you will know, GSK are global leaders in vaccination. Here in Ireland, we provide 13 of the 19 doses administered in the paediatric programme. But vaccines are not just for babies!

“Many people are not able to access new vaccines, particularly adult vaccine innovation, unless supported by public policy and clinical recommendation. Innovative health policies are needed to make adult immunisation a standard of care – the same as paediatric immunisation – in order to strengthen our economy, bolster our health service, and ensure people are able to live longer healthy lives.

“Vaccination should be seen as a life-long continuous activity, akin to exercise, that aims to build and maintain better overall health and contributes to healthy ageing. The Covid-19 pandemic emphasised the link between health and the economy, spotlighting the importance of adult immunisation to achieve societal wellbeing and economic prosperity.”

Ms. Caslin said we had an ageing and growing population in Ireland. Prioritising adult immunisation could help these individuals to live life more fully, leading to a healthier workforce, reduced healthcare spends and improved capacity, and increased productivity and tax revenues.

Adult vaccine-preventable diseases remained a major cause of morbidity, mortality and health system cost. In Europe, the burden of premature death caused by vaccine-preventable diseases was greatest in adults. This was associated with hundreds of thousands of hospitalisations.

“I am sure many of you are concerned about the threat of the tripledemic in your hospitals and healthcare settings this winter. You have no doubt made plans to deal with the increased demands on capacity due to the triple threat of Covid, Flu and RSV. I welcome the current vaccination campaign for covid and flu, it is so important to prevent hospitalisation and protect our most vulnerable.

“I am very excited to say that this summer GSK received European Medicines Agency approval for an RSV vaccine for older adults, which we have just launched in the Irish market this month, that at risk members of our society can avail of in a private capacity.

“However, we need to work in partnership with other stakeholders to keep up with the pace of innovation and make this new vaccine available to all vulnerable older adults, keeping them protected this winter and future winters, and out of the healthcare system.

“The second strategy I would like to touch on is Chronic Disease Management. I am pleased to say that GSK has entered our COPD Patient Support Programme into the Irish Healthcare Awards in theInnovation in Primary Care Award’ category.  As many of you will know,COPD accounts for more hospitalisations in Ireland than that for cardiovascular  and non-lung cancer cases combined.  Indeed, Ireland has the sixth highest hospitalisation rate for COPD among selected OECD countries.2  Whilst COPD isn’t curable, it is treatable, and early diagnosis as well as targeted treatment can help to slow the decline in lung function and improve patient outcomes.

“Conceived and funded by GSK, GPs can avail of a COPD patient support programme which is managed by IQVIA, an independent third-party service provider. This patient support programme has two phases. The first phase focuses on assisting GPs to identify those COPD patients most in need of review. Using a Bespoke Digital Platform, which enables accurate identification and stratification of COPD patients based on clinical markers, it highlights those with greatest clinical need that should be prioritised for review.

“GPs are provided with an overview of the diagnosed COPD patient population, and it supports the identification of patients diagnosed and treated for COPD without a recognised diagnostic code. This innovation in the primary care setting has the potential to inform national prevalence data and support HSE population-based resource allocation.

“Following the identification of patients, practices can avail of phase two of the PSP, additional clinical capacity via a nurse-led COPD clinic.  The nurse advisor carries out a holistic assessment of the patient in line with best-practice care standards and a range of pharmacological & non-pharmacological interventions may be recommended to the patient’s GP.

“The project commenced in May 2022 and 78 practices have completed or are scheduled to receive the service so far.  We anticipate the service will support 100 GP practices before the end of 2023. The feedback to date from GPs who have availed of the service has been overwhelmingly positive. But what is of most interest comes from the aggregated data:

  • Not all COPD patients are coded in GP systems as evidenced by the 77% increase in coding of COPD. 
  • COPD patients do not have their care optimised as evidenced by the almost 80% of patients who attended the COPD clinics being either symptomatic and/or exacerbating.

She said this GSK supported intervention had demonstrated the clinical benefit of taking a proactive approach to case finding and coding.  Learnings to date from this PSP demonstrated that further supports were needed to assist primary care in this area to fully leverage the HSE’s Enhanced Community Care directive. The proactive recall and management would help avoid unnecessary acute hospital admissions.

“This is just one example of the many projects we undertake in GSK Ireland as we work to unite science, technology, and talent, to get ahead of disease together. We continue to prioritise research into vaccines and medicines across four core therapeutic areas: infectious diseases, HIV, oncology, and immunology. And at the heart of enabling this work is our R&D focus on the science of the immune system, human genetics, and advanced technologies.

“I’d like to thank the HMI, in particular President Tony Canavan for inviting me to speak today and of course Conor Hanaway and Rosemarie Carroll and the extended HMI Council. I would also like to extend a welcome to the Secretary General of the Department of Health Mr. Robert Watt and all the other distinguished speakers and guests.”