Tag Archives: pharma

Takeaways from the EU Pharmaceutical Law Forum in Brussels

I really enjoyed attending and speaking at the EU Pharmaceutical Law Forum in Brussels this week. The event offered a number of insights into the legal challenges faced by the life sciences industry in an ever-evolving regulatory landscape. These are the main takeaways from the conference:

#1: Clearly, the political climate is not favorable to pharma and med-tech companies. A number of measures have been proposed at various levels that would significantly decrease the incentives to innovation that companies currently enjoy. Such proposed measures range from halving the term of protection for orphan drugs exclusivity to compulsory licensing of drug patents, from incentives to drug compounding by pharmacies to mandatory price reductions. The general public and the media continue to have a negative perception of the industry and the regulatory framework appears to be evolving in a restrictive way.

#2: Despite the uniform letter of GDPR throughout the Member States, interpretation of data protection rules continues to be very different throughout Europe. This is especially clear in the field of clinical trials, where there is a patchwork of legal solutions that makes it impossible to multinational corporations to adopt a consistent approach. The recent EDPB opinion on the legal basis for processing of data deriving from clinical trials has further shown that there has been a shift away from consent as the legal basis for the processing, but some countries (like Germany, Italy and Spain, for example) continue to find it hard to accept such a shift.

#3: EU harmonization is expected to occur in the coming years in a number of areas, such as off-label use, artificial intelligence and health technology assessment.

#4: Compliance efforts must be continued, but it is clear that formal compliance is not sufficient to shield a company from risks, especially reputational risks. Even when compliance safeguards are in place, the approach to reputational risks must be perfectionist, as pointed out by Ms. Alice Cabrio, compliance officer at Roche S.p.A.

Enjoy your weekend, and do not forget to celebrate the GDPR’s first birthday!

Another September, Another Spending Review.

This is almost becoming a tradition for the national healthcare service in Italy. Comes September… and a new spending review hits the pharmaceutical and medical device industry.

On August 4, 2015 a law decree has been approved by lawmakers, which introduces a number of new mechanisms for monitoring and reining in public spending in the healthcare sector. In particular, the new legislation has introduced several measures:

  • Negotiations with current suppliers of the national healthcare service in order to achieve a 5% reduction in current spending for general supplies;
  • Negotiations with current suppliers of medical devices in order to comply with the spending thresholds agreed upon between the central government and regional authorities;
  • Centralized negotiations with pharmaceutical companies in order to decrease the reimbursement price of products currently reimbursed by the national healthcare service.

While measures aimed at cutting spending in connection with general supplies and medical devices have been entrusted in principle to local authorities and healthcare providers, the national pharmaceutical agency (“AIFA”) plays a central role in the envisaged mechanism to achieve savings for pharmaceutical products. In accordance with the provisions of the new decree, AIFA has indeed conducted negotiations throughout the month of September 2015, with the aim of decreasing overall spending. The new legislation provides the grouping of products in several “clusters” that include therapeutically similar products, regardless of their active principles. The lowest price in each cluster is then used as the reference price for direct negotiations between AIFA and manufacturers.

The new measures also provide that, in case of failure to reach an agreement, reimbursement by the national healthcare service may be withdrawn. However, it is also expressly provided that generic products are not admitted to reimbursement until any patents and supplementary protection certificates of branded products are definitely expired, thus providing the industry with assurances in connection with their protected drugs.

The reiterated attempts by public authorities to renegotiate prices with suppliers appear to clash not only with basic contractual principles (“pacta sunt servanda”), but also with fundamental rules of public procurement legislation. As the government (in fact, almost yearly) demands discounts on existing contracts, reliance on such contracts is affected, along with transparency and open competition in public procurement procedures. The truth is that the need to cut public expenditures is increasingly overriding basic tenets of contracts and public procurement law.

Med Tech and Pharma industry associations have voiced their concerns, while suggesting that efficiency and savings may be obtained by the national healthcare service through internal reorganization processes rather than by demanding additional discounts to suppliers. In fact, if we step aside from the conflicting commercial interests of suppliers (who want to maximize their revenues) and purchasers (who need to minimize their costs), we cannot but note that, again, the government appears to use cost cutting tools that focus on quantity rather than quality. On the contrary, we would expect that more emphasis should be given to Health Technology Assessment and innovation. We surely need to spend less money, but also to spend it more wisely.

EMA Issues New Guidelines to Prevent Medication Errors

On April 14, 2015 the European Medicines Agency (“EMA”) released two drafts of good practice guides aimed at improving the reporting, evaluation and prevention of medication errors. The new guides are addressed to regulatory authorities, as well as the pharmaceutical industry.

Medication errors generally refer to unintended mistakes in the processes of prescribing, dispensing or administering of medicinal products in clinical practice and according to EMA they account for an estimated 18.7 – 56% of all adverse drug events among hospitalized patients.

The first guide released by EMA provides an overview of the main sources and types of medication errors, as well as measures to minimize the risks that such errors are made. The second guide, on the other hand, focuses on suspected adverse reactions caused by medication errors, providing guidance and recommendations on how to record, code, report and assess such errors.

The guidelines from EMA recommend a number of actions to marketing authorization holders, including the periodical reporting of information concerning medication errors. Recommendations to the industry include periodical safety update reports and risk management plans to be adopted for each marketed pharmaceutical product. The overall scope of these reporting obligations is to implement a real-life continuous evaluation of the risks and benefits of all medicines placed on the European market.

The two draft guidelines are now open to comments from all relevant stakeholders: the public consultation procedure will expire on June 14, 2015. The final version of the guidelines is expected to be finally adopted later in 2015.

More information and the new draft guides can be found here: http://www.ema.europa.eu/ema/index.jsp?curl=pages/news_and_events/news/2015/04/news_detail_002307.jsp&mid=WC0b01ac058004d5c1.