Wider adoption of innovative new medicines represents enormous untapped potential for middle-income countries (MIC), in terms of reducing healthcare costs and benefitting both patients and wider society, according to new research.

The study, conducted by Charles River Associates (CRA), examined the value of innovative medicines in five key therapy areas - coronary heart disease (CHD), depression, diabetes, HIV/AIDS and rotavirus infection - in MICs. The authors say they find finds clear evidence that such treatments are already delivering significant value to the nations, but that much more can be achieved through national prioritisation, investments in healthcare infrastructure and building better epidemiological and cost databases for effective evaluation of therapies.

In the case of rotavirus, the most common cause of severe diarrhoea among children in both industrialised and developing countries, the study compared the value that two recently-launched vaccines yielded in Brazil and Australia.

“The major benefit seen in both countries was a direct drop in hospitalisation costs, but in Brazil we also witnessed a major decline in related mortality rates. So obviously both benefitted from these innovations, but given the nature of the disease burden, the added value was greater for Brazil,” comments CRA vice president Tim Wilsdon. 

The study was conducted from the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations (IFPMA), whose director general, Eduardo Pisano, says its findings provide evidence that, in MICs, innovative therapies have the potential to create significant value that goes far beyond pricing and reimbursement, and that their social and economic benefits should also be taken into account in any calculation of value.

“If we look closer at CHD, which is by far the leading cause of premature death and disability for MICs, so far only Brazil, India and China have included cardiovascular diseases within their national plans to fight against non-communicable diseases initiated three years ago. The impact is there, yet we see a significant opportunity for more health gains, from the widespread deployment of these new medicines, than ever before,” Mr Pisani adds.

In some cases, less than 10%-20% of the relevant populations in MICs currently have access to these new therapy advances, the study authors report. The case studies which they conducted for all five therapy areas “illustrate the importance of national prioritisation and investment in healthcare infrastructure, as well as the value in building better epidemiological and cost databases to support the development of modern methods of evaluating the relative value of alternative therapies,” they conclude.