High time for utopian thinking

Dirk Hemelsoet (MSD) advocates for innovative collaboration in healthcare

“If we wish to retain our Belgian healthcare, all parties need to want to strive together towards an ideal solution, just like Thomas More in ‘Utopia’ 500 years ago.” This is also why MSD has signed up again to a Knowledge Partnership.

We were able to catch Dirk Hemelsoet, Governmental and Public Policy Manager at MSD, at the annual Vlerick Healthcare Conference which was held on 27 October on our Brussels campus. He was enthusiastic about the programme of the conference, which this year was split up into three tracks for the first time: ‘competing for access’, ‘competing for capital’ and ‘competing for patients’. “You follow a track and by the end of the day you have gained a picture of the current state-of-affairs from various perspectives. I took ‘competing for access’, because a crucial question for a pharmaceutical company like MSD is: how can we make innovative drugs available to all patients and doctors as quickly as possible?”

Innovation in oncology

Which innovative drugs are we talking about here? “At MSD, we are active in therapeutic fields such as infectious diseases (hepatitis C, among others), diabetes and vaccinations. We always try to bring our innovations to the patient as quickly as possible. In terms of cancer treatment, we are on the verge of a breakthrough. Besides the traditional surgical treatment, radiotherapy and chemotherapy, we are focusing our efforts on a fourth form of treatment, namely with immuno-oncology drugs, which give a boost to our immune system in order to fight the cancer cells. Currently, we are carrying out more than 300 studies across several types of cancer, including lung, breast and gastrointestinal cancer. The results of these studies will determine whether a registration and reimbursement request will be submitted depending on the type of cancer studied. For the treatment of some forms of melanoma (skin cancer), a registration and reimbursement request is already planned.”

“Thanks to the Knowledge Partnership, we can design the healthcare of tomorrow with all parties involved.”


But that doesn’t make these drugs available to the patient yet. “The pharmaceutical sector is working hard on new ways of bringing new drugs to the patient more quickly, but just as safely, for instance by using Real-World Data (big data) on the use of drugs or simplifying access procedures. At the conference, all parties agreed on this.”


Incidentally, this contact with other parties, such as the National Institute for Health and Disability Insurance RIZIV, the Belgian Healthcare Knowledge Centre (KCE), biotech companies and hospitals, is one of the reasons why MSD has signed up again to a Knowledge Partnership within the Vlerick Healthcare Management Centre. “As an individual company, you generally have one-to-one contact with these parties with a specific goal in mind. Thanks to this partnership, we get to brainstorm together and break down existing silos. By better understanding each other’s point of view, you go to the table with a different mindset and that right there is absolutely vital for the healthcare of tomorrow.”

Some impressions of the Vlerick Healthcare Conference held on 27 October 2016.
More photos are available on Flickr.