By Adelina Pagliocca

Rx Communications and Greenflint had great pleasure in attending the 9th annual European meeting of the International Society for Pharmacoeconomics and Outcomes Research (ISPOR), 28–31 October in Copenhagen.

Representing Rx were marketing manager Chris Gardiner (pictured centre), editorial manager Adelina Pagliocca (left), and project manager Maggie Jones (right).

Our booth featured Rx sister company Greenflint, whose models are designed to help in early-stage decisions, cutting costs, making strategic decisions during development, and developing a promotional message.

Modelling was the theme, with attendees invited to craft models out of red and green clay.

With red clay, attendees were asked to create a communication tool, and with the green clay, to model their favourite thing.

This creative challenge produced, amongst other entries, a dove carrying an olive branch, a football match between Copenhagen and England, ‘probably’ Denmark’s best export (the famous lager), and a Christmas tree.

All entries and winners for both competitions can be viewed at the Rx and Greenflint websites.

Asking critical questions

The theme of the congress was ‘Asking critical questions’. The first plenary session was introduced by Bengt Jønsson, PhD, who initiated the discussion on the use of health technology assessment (HTA) as a basis for reimbursement and priorities in health care.

Richard Bergström, MScPharm, presented the HTA principles adopted by EFPIA and industry’s perspective on promoting good use of HTA. Audun Hågå, MSc, discussed priority decisions from a government perspective focusing on Nordic countries. One key message was the need for increased communication between industry and payers, and a decision on the best practices for Europe.

The second plenary session was a debate between Professor Paul Glasziou, PhD, FRACGP, and Ivar Sonbo Kristiansen, MD, PhD, MPH, moderated by Kjeld Møller Pedersen. This session examined questions surrounding evidence based medicine (EBM).

Dr Kristiansen questioned the use of EBM in health policy; he urged the audience to be more humble in interpreting the results of randomised clinical trials (RCT), and suggested that EBM does not improve patients’ health.

The speaker questioned the Cochrane collaboration, suggesting it is an anti-industry movement that should be consulted with caution. Professor Glasziou retaliated by providing examples of when an RCT is required, although he agreed that RCTs are not always the best approach, suggesting that the best study design depends on the type of question one is attempting to answer.

With regards to the Cochrane collaboration, Professor Glasziou explained the background and stressed that the collaboration is not anti-industry, and when used properly is a good tool to aid physicians in choosing the correct medication for their patients.

The third plenary session addressed the societal value of the QALY. Professor Dorte Gyrd-Hansen, PhD, gave a critical view demonstrating that the task of performing a linear translation from QALYs to willingness to pay (WTP) is theoretically and empirically unattainable.

The speaker stressed that we need to think carefully about study design and interpretation of results. Professor Martin Buxton, BA (Soc Sci), argued that ‘social’ WTP values are interesting but of no immediate relevance.

The speaker stressed that a health system is responsible for the entire population and a WTP threshold needs to be set. This threshold should ensure that technologies adopted are always more valuable than other new alternative and any displaced activities.

In addition to these plenary sessions, there were 28 thought-provoking workshops, 6 issue panel presentations, 64 contributed presentations, and almost 600 posters.