Sustainable healthcare systems help ensure access to innovative therapies

Sustainable healthcare systems help ensure access to innovative therapies, writes Pascal Apostolides.

Pascal Apostolides | Photo credit: SFEE

By Pascal Apostolides

05 Feb 2018

Europe’s health systems face significant sustainability challenges. As the population ages, chronic diseases grow and technology advances, public spending is failing to keep up with demand; healthcare systems are being asked to do more and better with less.

According to the European Commission, health and long-term care spending in the European Union will increase by 10 per cent of GDP by 2060. The financial crisis and austerity have affected EU healthcare systems, particularly those of southern Europe. 

Budget cuts and hospital mergers are driving a steady deterioration in the quality of services, inflating waiting times and increasing the requirement of co-payments for medicines and other health services.


For Greece, and also for other southern European countries such as Spain, Italy and Portugal, the implementation of severe budget cuts in health has increased inequalities, decreased healthcare access and compounded barriers to access, especially among the most vulnerable such as elderly people and patients with chronic diseases. 

Additionally, institutional pressure to constrain healthcare budgets is suffocating the Greek healthcare sector.

Nevertheless, cost containment policies, as posed by the adjustment programmes, have focused on medicines rather than other healthcare interventions, due to the pressure to make short-term savings at the expense of structural reforms or long-term outcomes driven by sustainable healthcare delivery. 

If a sustainable, effective, accessible and resilient healthcare system is needed, now is the time to look ahead to a new, outcomes-driven and patient-centred healthcare policy that enhances a more structural healthcare policy strategy.

Health outcomes vary greatly across Europe. This cannot be explained by spending differentials or risk factors alone.

By focusing on outcomes, systems can achieve better care, improve equality and reduce wasteful spending. The transition to resilient and sustainable European healthcare systems requires awareness of the collection of outcomes data as a basis for better resource allocation and the removal of structural barriers so as to enhance investment in R&D.

It is worth noting that the pharmaceutical industry invests significantly in R&D, driving one of the highest value added relative to other industries by ploughing 15.1 per cent of net sales back into R&D.

Despite fiscal pressure and the economic crisis, our industry’s employment and investment has proven to be resilient. Innovative medicines are estimated to have been the most important single factor contributing to the increase in life expectancy.

The pharmaceutical industry and the Hellenic Association of Pharmaceutical Companies, after almost 10 years of crisis, is committed to ensuring the sustainability of the Greek healthcare system by breaking barriers and silos and by working together with the State to deliver outcomes to patients, society and the national economy.

The pharma industry should be considered as part of the solution. We can do more together to support sustainable and predictable health systems and to speed access to innovative therapies.