Ana Govedarica, General Manager, Roche Serbia

“New Medicine” Arriving

Roche is one of the leading pharmaceutical companies, which strives to provide patients with access to innovative therapeutic and diagnostic options, but also a personalised approach to treatment. To this end, Roche builds and nurtures partnership relations with doctors, pharmacists, institutions and associations of patients

Thanks to the joint efforts of state institutions and producers of innovative drugs, including Roche, it is expected that – by next year at the latest – more than 80 innovative, latest-generation medicines will be available to patients in Serbia at the expense of the state. This will markedly improve the quality of treatment.

To what extent does Roche – as one of the leading pharmaceutical companies in Serbia and a member of the INOVIA Association of Manufacturers of Innovation Medicines – succeed in providing patients with the latest diagnostic procedures and therapy options?

– Extremely exciting and revolutionary things are currently occurring in healthcare. These changes are so great that we can call them “New Medicine”. They will transform all aspects of our work, our industry and the healthcare sector as a whole, as they will enable each patient to always receive the most effective therapy.

This possibility is based on the massive precision of diagnostics, as we thus gain a clearer or – using the vocabulary of photography – sharper image than ever before. This is possible today thanks to new technologies, such as the genomic profiling of tumours, but also thanks to the availability of huge databases of knowhow and statistics.

A great honour and responsibility for me lie in the fact that Roche, of which I am part, is the leader of those innovations and changes. Roche shows its sincere willingness to transfer knowledge and experiences regarding the latest achievements to all stakeholders in the Serbian health system, with the aim of facilitating the more effective treatment of patients.

For years, Serbia for years occupied an unenviable place in terms of the availability of innovative medicines, but then a great shift was made – though we believe even better can be done. What is your assessment of the current situation and tendencies?

– The availability of innovative therapies in Serbia has improved over the past several years thanks to the joint efforts of state institutions and pharmaceutical companies, including Roche. The effectiveness of treating patients and the introduction of new therapies, however, is advancing so rapidly that much more is needed for us to keep pace with the world.

The funding allocated for healthcare in Serbia is not small compared to the countries of the region, but a model must be found for its more efficient use. I primarily think that we should utilise the advantages of the digitalisation of healthcare, which already now offers completely new, more efficient ways of treating patients, but also of organising the entire health system.

The new era of personalised medicine implies a multidisciplinary approach that includes diagnostics, biotechnology and IT companies, in order to combine the achievements of more than one medical and technological field to collect as much information as possible on patients, apply the appropriate methods for analysing the information gleaned, and thus create personalised therapies.

The pathway of treatment would commence from the establishment of a precise diagnosis for each individual to determining which therapy is most effective and least risky for them, and then continuous monitoring would be conducted to determine the outcome of the treatment and take preventive steps in order to preserve health.

Well-developed IT platforms and precise statistics are a prerequisite for the further improvement of healthcare and the applying of all-new achievements. Serbia has a good IT base, and systems that are already in use in Serbia, with certain upgrades, can be efficiently used for “New Medicine”.

Serbia can easily take a seven-mile step and reach the level of healthcare protection that exists in much more developed countries

How often should the list of so-called positive medicines – those that patients receive from the National Health Insurance Fund – be amended?

– The development of new therapies is so accelerated that the process of introducing new innovative medicines must never be interrupted. This requires money, which is a major challenge for Serbia. It will, therefore, be necessary to change the way specific groups of medicines are procured and paid for, where feasible.

It is important to measure the results of the success of treatments of every patient, but also all costs arising during the entire treatment cycle, and not just the primary cost of medicine procurement. Thus, if some medicine reduces some other treatment costs, that should also be taken into account.

There is also another model that is successfully applied in well-organised health systems but can easily be applied in Serbia – the so-called “pay for performance” system. In short, the healthcare system pays medicine manufacturers only for those therapies that proved effective with the patient, and not for those that didn’t yield a satisfactory result.

The procurement of medicines in Serbia is stable. Does this mean that the State is no longer in debt to suppliers?

– There are no shortages, and that’s very important. What needs to be worked on is the establishment of long-term planning when it comes to the procurement of medicines, which will enable both pharmaceutical companies and the healthcare system to provide therapies under better conditions.

In your estimation, how much should be allocated to Serbia’s annual budget for innovative medicines and how far away from that optimal amount are we?

– As I mentioned, allocations for healthcare could be higher, but using the existing budget as efficiently as possible is more of a priority. The existence of a special budget for innovative medicines is one solution that would enable quicker access to the latest therapies. Investing in innovative therapies that are more effective than those used to date – according to most pharmacoeconomic analyses – is ultimately returned through manifold savings and benefits for society, the patient and their family.

Thanks to the joint efforts of state institutions and producers of innovative drugs, including Roche, it is expected that – by next year at the latest – more than 80 innovative, latest-generation medicines will be available to patients in Serbia at the expense of the state.

These are medicines that are already prioritised by national expert committees, and thus the costs of their procurement can be assessed in a timely manner. It is only in this way – through adequate planning – that we can move closer to European and neighbouring countries in terms of the availability of innovative medicines, as well as the resources allocated for these purposes.

You once stated that “health can be a generator of positive changes and GDP growth because only a healthy person can contribute to healing the economy”. Do you have the impression that this message of yours made it to the authorities? 

– It seems to me that advancing the health system in Serbia is one of the current priorities, which is good, so it seems to me that this message was accepted in the right way. The fact is that the pharmaceutical industry is showing a sincere willingness to partner with healthcare workers, patients and the state to achieve the highest possible quality in the shortest possible time.

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