Europe's patients are counting on us. Together we can live up to their expectations

“It’s only by working together that we will secure access to a variety of treatment options and support patients.”

By Henning Kleine

Henning Kleine is the Vice-President of Europe Medical Affairs at AbbVie.

14 Sep 2023

When I hear from European patients suffering with chronic diseases, I am often struck by their stories which show their need for more treatment options. It's what reminds me that the work isn't finished yet.

This is one of the key aspects we need to recognize when discussing the EU's pharmaceutical strategy. It sounds simple, but the challenge is complex.

There are several layers involved in bringing medicine to patients. To succeed, every stakeholder must consider solutions that account for this patient need.

Let's take an example from a therapeutic area that rarely makes the headlines - dermatology.

Perhaps the best way to explain the ongoing need is to use the words of Africa, a Spanish patient representative of the national association and herself suffering from atopic dermatitis, a severe form of eczema.

She explains, "When I was 19, my body was almost entirely covered in wet, cracked rashes. My skin burned and itched. I felt like I was trapped in my own skin. I wanted so badly to take it off and hang it somewhere to rest".

Can we leave these patients without hope of treatment options? Obviously not.

Yet, it happens – and it happens in a variety of healthcare systems.

In countries like Belgium and Sweden, at the cutting edge of modern healthcare delivery, the treatment options available to patients are restricted.

In Poland and Bulgaria, atopic dermatitis is not appropriately recognized as a serious chronic condition, limiting disease awareness, and leaving unmet need unaddressed.

In Denmark and Austria, long waiting times for appointments – due to capacity restraints – mean that patients are not receiving timely care.

Without access to treatments, patients can become trapped in a vicious circle. This is costly to their well-being and puts financial pressures on healthcare systems, even though novel treatment options are already accessible in other Member States in which the lingering unmet need is acknowledged.

For example, staying with dermatology, patients who are eligible for targeted systemic atopic dermatitis treatment but do not receive it have an average of 10 medical visits every six months. This number could be cut by almost half with access to targeted systemic treatment[i]. That would mean relief for the patient and the healthcare system.

The EU Pharmaceutical Strategy is an opportunity to achieve this relief and its success is a shared responsibility. Between Brussels, Member States, the pharmaceutical industry, and patients we must find solutions that balance obligations across stakeholders and avoid the exclusion of entire therapeutic areas from the definition of “unmet medical need”.

It’s only by working together that we will secure access to a variety of treatment options and support patients, like Africa, who continue to strive for more.

[i] Silvestre, J.F., et al. Real-World Burden in Patients With Atopic Dermatitis Who Are Candidates for Systemic Therapy and Currently Receiving No Systemic Therapy, No Treatment, Topical Therapy Only, or Systemic Therapy: Results From a Real-World Multicounty Study. FC02.02. 2022 European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology (EADV) Hybrid Congress.

In partnership with

This article was produced in partnership with AbbVie. AbbVie sa/nv - BE-ABBV-230100 (v1.0) – Aug 23.