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On 19 October 2011, Health First Europe attended the annual European Diagnostics Manufacturers Association (EDMA) In-Vitro Diagnostics (IVD) Forum which brought together academics, health experts, policymakers and industry to discuss issues such as Health Technology Assessment and the Innovation Partnership on Active and Healthy Ageing.  The Forum looked to discuss in detail the current contribution of the IVD industry to the health sector and the potential for the industry to further engage on European issues impacting health.

The first sessions of the day focused on Health Technology Assessment (HTA) with particular discussion on ensuring patient access to medical innovations in a timely manner.  Jerome Boehm, Policy Coordinator and Team Leader in DG SANCO’s Health Systems Unit, described the issues the European Commission is currently facing in terms of developing a permanent, collaborative HTA network as prescribed by the Patients’ Rights in Cross-border Healthcare Directive. He explained that, “Cooperation is needed among actors at EU level and the Commission is promoting early dialogue between actors to facilitate the process.”

Additionally, Jennifer Cain, Chair of the EDMA HTA Task Force and External Affairs Director, LifeScan EMEA at Johnson and Johnson, further discussed the need for HTA decisions to have the adequate involvement of healthcare professionals, patients, policymakers and industry so that HTA is a gateway to innovation.  She expressed the uniqueness of the IVD industry in terms of HTA due to the fact that IVDs lead to decisions about treatment, not the treatment itself.  She highlighted that, “60-80% of the decisions taken about treatment for patients are affected by IVDs.”

Following on the discussions of HTA, the final sessions of the day examined the Pilot Innovation Partnership on Active and Healthy Ageing (AHAIP) launched by the European Commission in 2010 and ongoing actions and research around this initiative.  The first speaker, Dr. Roberto Bertollini of the World Health Organisation (WHO) explained what the WHO is doing to facilitate active and healthy ageing particularly in terms of supportive environments for older individuals, strengthening health systems and addressing gaps in evidence and research.  Professor Carol Jagger, from the Institute for Ageing and Health at Newcastle University, then illustrated her research on healthy ageing with regards to the aged 85+ segment of the population.  She declared that the “apocalyptic demography” paradigm (or the pessimistic view of the demographic changes to society) needs to be combated through the re-oganisation of health systems by putting the patient at the centre of the system.  She asserted that multi-morbidity equates to serious costs in healthcare since the elderly population averages 4-5 chronic conditions – typically treated in different places by a variety of specialists without channels for communication.

Furthermore, Maria Iglesia-Gomez, Head of Unit for Strategy and International at DG SANCO, spoke in great detail about the ongoing work of the AHAIP and how the pilot partnership is using a new approach to working with all stakeholders to produce tangible outcomes for ageing patients. She acknowledged that because the AHAIP is a pilot, “we do not have all the answers,” but suggested that bringing together patient groups, professionals, industry and experts to identify bottlenecks and produce concrete solutions will go a long way towards achieving the goal of two additional healthy living years by 2020.  She called for stakeholders to commit to the partnership which is scheduled to receive formal political endorsement from the Council and the European Parliament in the first half of 2012.

Overall, the EDMA IVD Forum 2011 produced a very interesting dialogue on two important issues for the European health community and showcased the IVD industry’s continuing contribution to the healthy and active living of patients of all ages.