By Ruth Whittington ([email protected])

The theme of this year’s ISPOR annual European Congress – the largest ever – was ‘Expanding Horizons’, and the Rx team took this very seriously, meeting almost every one of the 1700 delegates who visited our exhibition stand.

The programme featured multiple workshops, podium presentations and forums. The first plenary session, led by Drs Michael Barry and former ISPOR president Michael Drummond focused on recent challenges Ireland faces in adopting its own fourth hurdle; the foundation of the Health Information and Quality Authority and the Health Technology Assessments (HTAs) carried out so far.

Of the 33 evaluations conducted since January 2005, 15 submissions were accepted without modification, four were accepted with modifications, and 14 were rejected. Interestingly, the timelines for evaluations in Ireland put those of NICE to shame; they are aiming for – and, it seems, largely achieving – a decision within 90 days, provided there’s enough data. Single technology assessments at NICE take between three and six months, while multi-compound HTAs still average about 18 months.

Ross Hattaway, a New Zealander working for the Health Service Executive in Ireland, presented on the ‘not-NICE’ aspects of reimbursement assessment, and explained how a pre-application consultation with the product suppliers creates a simple, fast process that allows access for innovation. A system of supplier incentives will speed up the process to a mere 40 days if the necessary work is done ahead of the decision process. Another panel member, John McLaughlin, general manager of Sanofi-Aventis in Ireland, explained that a key advantage was a history of positive working relationships between government and industry. Ireland is one of the largest exporters of drugs in the EU with pharmaceutical products accounting for one sixth of all exports.

Other congress sessions focused on compliance and adherence issues; a topic we explore further in this issue of HOC. Patient-reported outcomes were also discussed at length, and featured in a number of the excellent posters on display.
We at Rx look forward to having a strong presence, meeting old friends, making new acquaintances – and expanding our own horizons – at next year’s ISPOR European Congress, to be held in Athens next November.