Germany has come top of a new international league table in terms of access to medicines for patient organisations, with Italy and France in joint second place and the UK coming fourth.

The survey, conducted by PatientView, asked patient groups in 12 countries or regions about their ability to gain access to medicines, for example, by influencing the health technology assessment (HTA) process in their country. The fifth-best access, after that in the UK, was found in the Nordic countries, followed by Canada in sixth place. 

The US and central and south America are next, in joint seventh place, followed by the Netherlands and Australasia, joint ninth, then Spain in eleventh place and finally, placed twelfth, with the worst access, is Eastern Europe.

The survey also asked patient groups representing individual diseases and conditions how able they are to influence access-to-medicines processes, and the top performers in this table are groups representing people with HIV/AIDS. Only 19% of these patient groups now regard access to medicines to be a hurdle, compared to 38% which reported that they did so in PatientView’s last survey, in 2012.

Next in terms of access to medicines were groups representing patients with circulatory conditions, followed by: mental health – third place; diabetes and rheumatological – joint fourth; neurological – sixth; rare diseases and respiratory – joint seventh; cancer – ninth; endocrine – tenth; and gastrointestinal – eleventh.

HIV/AIDS groups are also the most proficient of all patient organisations; they are particularly skilled at raising awareness of the need for new treatments, and they are more ready than other types of patient groups to present themselves as a unified force, says the survey.

In contrast, a large proportion of cancer patient groups find access to medicines to be a problem, with 41% reporting this to be the case in 2014 compared with 28% in 2012. Many cancer patient groups today clearly feel unable to negotiate better access to medicines, and incapable of influencing government healthcare policies which reject the most modern cancer therapies on cost grounds. These groups are also hindered by the fragmentation of the cancer sector of the patient movement, which dilutes the public messages and campaigns of the individual – and sometimes competing – cancer patient groups, the report comments.

However, the survey’s examination of which patient groups have the best relationships with government policymakers puts cancer groups in the top spot, followed by rare diseases and gastrointestinal in joint second, and HIV/AIDS groups down in fifth place. These findings show that patient groups do not have to secure good relationships with government to get the leverage needed to influence access to medicines – in fact, the opposite can be true, says PatientView.