A matter of life and death

Roche Chair focuses on framework for reimbursement of innovative medicines with clinical outcomes

There is clearly mutual respect – and a good deal of excitement – at the launch of the new Roche Chair “Driving patient access to innovative medicines”. After all, it’s not every day that we get the chance to work on matters relating to life and death, but that is absolutely the case in this new partnership with Roche, the multinational pharmaceutical company with headquarters in Switzerland.

Richard Erwin, Managing Director at Roche Belgium since 2013, explains the attraction: “We’ve worked with both students and faculty from Vlerick and it’s clear they are high-calibre individuals. I’ve seen MBA students at work as interns in our office and have been greatly impressed. In addition, I’ve seen how both Professor Van Dyck and Leo Neels, who are in charge of the Vlerick Healthcare Management Centre, have a great understanding of the health environment in Belgium.” Philippe Haspeslagh, Dean of Vlerick, nods in agreement: “A Chair partnership with a reputed industry actor like Roche is an important step for the Centre towards achieving critical mass and serving its mission. Healthcare and life sciences are a prime example where we want to bring an interdisciplinary focus and assist as an independent party to turn good theory into actionable change.”

Affordable and sustainable reimbursement

“Our goal here is to work on a framework for reimbursement that is both affordable and sustainable,” Richard continues. “With that in mind, I particularly appreciate that Vlerick has connections with and enjoys the respect of all parties involved: government, the medical world and the pharmaceutical industry. We are highly committed to making patients’ lives better but want to find ways of doing this that work both for innovative healthcare companies and for the Belgian economy.”

Who pays and how much?

Over the last few years, Roche has consistently invested in R&D, particularly in the field of oncology, the treatment of cancer. This has produced some exciting breakthroughs, but the question of who pays and how much is always the elephant in the room.

And this is where the new Chair comes in, as Walter Van Dyck explains: “We’ll be researching shared value strategies, in particular as they relate to the sustainability of medical technology. It’s all about the cost/benefit equation of precision medicine. Simply put, how much is society willing to pay for a positive outcome when targeted therapeutic medicines are available? As always in this field, there are two sides to the story. On the one hand, it must be worthwhile, financially, for pharmaceutical companies to continue investing in breakthrough treatments, while on the other, society must calculate how much it is prepared and able to pay if the results are forthcoming. Our goal therefore is to look at how clinical outcomes – whether the patient lives or dies – can be linked to reimbursement fees in the future.”

Left to right back row: Walter Van Dyck (Director of the Vlerick Healthcare Management Centre), Bruno Van Orshoven (Human Resources Director Roche), Richard Erwin (Managing Director Roche), Philippe Haspeslagh (Dean Vlerick), Leo Neels (Chairman of the Vlerick Healthcare Management Centre), Hans Warrinnier (Medical Director Roche). Left to right front row: Ann Vandevelde (a.i. Head of Access/Policy Roche), Tine Geldof (Research Associate Vlerick) and Isabelle Hoet (Head of Communications Roche).

A national register of patients

Belgium is a leader in successful cancer treatment with many world-leading experts and centres of excellence. One possible avenue for further improvement is the creation of a national registry that could potentially track patient outcomes. It needs to be established in a way that does not create a significant workload for physicians, as they rightly should be focused on patient care. This is an area where we can add value, as the first thing we will do is document how other countries are tackling the problem, e.g. Germany, the UK, Switzerland, Italy and Sweden,.

Ultimately the hope is to bring the decision-makers – government, health insurance funds, hospitals, doctors and the pharmaceutical industry – together in a conference to discuss possible solutions. “It’s a wonderful opportunity to set the agenda for such an important meeting,” adds Walter. “After all, for some it really is a matter of life and death.”

Roche is a world leader in biotechnology, cancer medicines and diagnostics.  The Roche Group employs around 80,000 people worldwide, and markets its medicinal products in more than 150 countries.