At the beginning of what has come to be the biggest epidemiological crisis of recent years, studies suggested we were to expect at least 18 months of Covid-19 social distancing and much disruption across all sectors of economy and society. Well, we are way past that point. With the scientific community making great and speedy strides, vaccines are now available and promising medication is on the horizon—but is the end of this ordeal really here? And most importantly, what’s next?
In this issue of Business Partners, our Thought Leaders—all members of the Pharmaceutical Committee and the Medical Devices and Diagnostics Committee of the American-Hellenic Chamber of Commerce—propose bold solutions for the future of healthcare. In light of the upcoming HealthWorld conference, they look at new scientific approaches to patient evaluation and treatment and discuss how the technology available to us today can help us create a roadmap for the next five or 10 years in healthcare. Read on to find out how the innovative pharmaceutical industry sees the future and to discover whether this panel of experts believes we will be ready for the next epidemiological crisis.
Covid-19 as an Opportunity for Promoting Pharmaceutical Innovation
By Pascal Apostolidis, President and Managing Director, AbbVie
The outbreak of Covid-19 has caused enormous challenges to the global economy and people’s lives. With the pandemic on the rise, societies have paid more attention to the healthcare and pharmaceutical industries. Governments prioritized policy measures for strengthening their healthcare systems and for the fast approval and distribution of vaccines to the population.
In this unique momentum, pharmaceutical innovation became a gamechanger in the fight against Covid-19 and in our effort to gain our lives back. In this respect, the Covid-19 pandemic is a golden opportunity for promoting policies that support innovation. It is now obvious that creating incentives for investments in R&D and clinical research and taking measures for quick access of patients to innovative medicines should be an integral part of an effective pharmaceutical policy.
This is also an important task for the Greek government, as patients in Greece do not have quick access to innovative medicines. It is now time to promote reforms to accelerate the access of new medicines in the Greek market and their availability to people in need. The creation of a Pharmaceutical Innovation Fund is a concrete proposal that would enable that.
Likewise, more incentives, such as the clawback offset with clinical trials investments, would drive growth and promote clinical trials. Bold solutions for exploring the e-prescription data that are available since 2012 and are very valuable for the pharmaceutical industry and the scientific research, could transform Greece to a global Centre of Clinical Excellence.
The Covid-19 Era: An Opportunity for Greece and to Reevaluate Healthcare
By Theodoros Liakopoulos, Managing Director, Johnson & Johnson Commercial and Industrial
Greece reacted quickly to the pandemic, buying time for our under-resourced healthcare system to avoid a potential collapse whilst waiting for the expedited vaccine development. Things need to structurally change, however, supported by a society and politicians who now acknowledge healthcare investments’ correlation with a prosperous society and economy.
The European Commission’s focus on healthcare is indicated by the European Horizon 2021–2027 Research and Innovation program, which directed €48.2 million to coronavirus research and innovation within just seven days of the first EU case reported, while destining another €8.246 billion for health projects, including the transformation of health systems and anti-microbial resistance strategies.
Greece was not ready or quick enough to attract vaccine trials; however, the rapid progression of medical technology in the fields of AI, Big Data, digital healthcare, and the battle against infections represents the upcoming opportunities for the country. Big Data alone is projected to grow 14% annually reaching $116 billion globally by 2027. Digital health advancements enable patient self-management, remote monitoring, device performance, and HCP decision support including digital surgery. The medtech industry is now the most innovative industry by patent applications, being transformed into a technology, services and solutions sector.
A non-exhaustive list of offered programs includes patient pathways, operating room optimization, hospital logistics, and surgical excellence.
Greece cannot afford to let these opportunities pass by. We can capitalize on the current societal maturity, the Hellenic IT and medical human resources potential to halt the constant brain drain and prepare the country for the future. This is a chance for Greece to become a technological and scientific hub.
Investing in Delivering the Right Treatments at the Right Time
By Gisella Dante, Managing Director Janssen Greece Poland Romania
The last 18 months have prompted a level of technological acceleration and industry collaboration few would have imagined. To shape the future, we must take a leadership role in sustaining these historic gains. We have tremendous opportunities to accelerate progress into areas such as data science and real-world evidence, smart systems for energy efficiency, AI and early disease detection, and to use digital tools to strengthen economic and social inclusion. These advances offer the potential to be better prepared not just for a future pandemic, but for the future in general. With an enormous amount of medical and biological data produced every single second, the key is how we harness it. Data science tools, from AI to wearables to machine learning, can help inform clinical studies, adapt and optimize treatment pathways, and generate evidence to broaden access to innovative medicines.
Our shared goal must be the best possible patient care. Telemedicine, improved access to care, and the use of more tolerable and more easily administered treatments have paved the way to improving the patient experience, while also reducing pressure on health systems. Collaboration is the key to succeeding on this goal, and the pharma industry stands ready to partner. We must continue organizing a health ecosystem around patients and their medical conditions, investing in delivering the right treatments at the right time. And this should be seen as an investment, not a cost. The pandemic has shown that we need solutions that benefit everyone, to improve the health of society as a whole and keep driving us towards a future where disease is a thing of the past.
Intelligent Efficiency in Healthcare
By Spyridon Gkikas-Panousis, General Manager Greece and Cyprus, GE Healthcare
The pandemic has given us some hard-earned wisdom on what works, what doesn’t, and what our next priorities in healthcare should be. With more patients, fewer open beds and limited human resources, healthcare institutions have been forced to reevaluate their operations, seek improvements and increase efficiency. New technology provides clinicians with the means for earlier, better and faster diagnosis and treatment. AI algorithms, embedded into medical devices, enhance diagnostic confidence and act as a second line of defense by raising attention to critical alerts. This digitalization of the processes reduces manual labor and personnel burnout and allows clinicians to deal with the most significant cases.
Τhe pandemic has also highlighted the need for real-time decision support tools and data management. Effective use of the vast amount of healthcare data can strengthen clinical decisionmaking, enabling workflow improvements and patient management, while tools based on machine learning, natural language processing and computer vision can coordinate patient flow, quality, risk management and system optimization. Remote monitoring solutions, virtual clinical training and telemedicine have been rapidly deployed and become popular in light of Covid-19. The evolution of virtual assessment allows healthcare delivery in new, non-traditional ways, frequently outside the hospital walls. This decentralization of care expands access and increases equality.
Could we claim that tackling the pandemic has given us a glimpse into the future of healthcare? We have certainly seen that health systems must continue to respond to patients’ expectations for better and more convenient healthcare and that intelligent efficiency through digital innovation must be prioritized to achieve this.
Innovating for Growth
By Agata Jakoncic, President PhRMA, Managing Director MSD Greece, Cyprus & Malta
People are living longer and better. From 2000 to 2009 life expectancy has been improved by 1.74 years in 30 OECD countries, with 73% of this benefit coming from new treatments, making it evident that pharmaceutical innovation has greatly contributed towards this. However, the concept of innovation goes far beyond medicines, touching every aspect of the healthcare system. Covid-19 has challenged healthcare systems, worsening the disruption and fragmentation of healthcare services. Thus, innovation should be integrated across all services to ensure that a patient-centered health ecosystem will be structured to meet patient needs. We need a ‘well-care’ system that invests in keeping people healthy, and we need a system with integrated models of care for people with chronic conditions. Innovation needs to be incorporated in the ways of preventing, diagnosing, and monitoring health conditions, as well as in the care and treatment of diseases.
Big Data, AI and other technologies are also fueling a new wave of health innovations around the world. The digital transformation of healthcare and the generation of real-world evidence will lead to personalized care approaches and an ecosystem able to support patients across their journey digitally and improve their experience. Ultimately, the continuum of care will be ensured, the system will become more efficient and resilience will be developed for future healthcare challenges. The Pharmaceutical Innovation Forum, an association that represents research-based pharmaceutical companies in Greece, has submitted a comprehensive set of proposals on how innovation can lead to social and economic growth and are willing to work with the government to succeed in achieving these goals.
Reimagining Medicine Through Digital Transformation and R&D
By Susanne Kohout, Country President and Managing Director, Novartis Hellas
The Covid-19 pandemic has triggered the pharmaceutical sector to accelerate its digital transformation to not only reshape our sector but to also create better experiences for patients and physicians. In the post-Covid-19 era, telemedicine, virtual trials, remote patient monitoring, and AI are expected to redefine the future of healthcare. Global health is data-dependent and Big Data is a great tool to understand, improve and evolve healthcare. Greece is very well positioned in this area, due to its e-prescription system and as one of the few EU countries with a thorough Covid-19 registry. The Ministry of Digital Infrastructure has been a catalyst, and now is the time to establish a concrete framework, as per the WHO OneΗealth governance. Cooperation among all stakeholders is key.
Novartis’s vision is to reimagine medicine to improve and extend people’s lives, powered by data science and digital technologies. AAV-based therapies, cell and gene therapies and CRISPR-based technologies serve our goal to produce breakthroughs and address major unmet needs. We are currently pursuing 12 major projects to build large-scale digital solutions, including massive clinical databases, improving our people’s digital capabilities, and forging partnerships with leading technology companies such as Microsoft, Amazon, Google, and HP.
Proposing Bold Solutions for the Future
By George Papadopoulos, Country Manager and Country Franchise Head Surgical, Alcon Greece
The landscape of healthcare is expected to change considerably in the next years, fully adopting technologies such as AI, remote connectivity of instruments and cloud analysis, and building on expanded digitalization to achieve the needed flexibility and consistency.
As medical device companies, we are now able to consolidate data also through cloud analysis in order to provide healthcare professionals more information on the benefits and indications of our devices and therapeutic solutions, allowing treatment options to be determined according to patient profile and health status. The knowledge we gain year after year in applying drugs with the most suitable devices will most probably create an osmosis between the pharma and medical devices industries in our effort to achieve the best outcome. We have already seen cases where gene therapy for a rare ophthalmological disease needs the respective effective medical device so to be successfully applied. The combination of the experience gained in the course of the last years in the medical device industry and the upcoming gene reengineering applications will push even push the boundaries of current technological limitations even further in the years to come.
This last epidemiological crisis brought to the surface one key element, which is crucial in addressing similar challenges: The need for collaboration and knowledge sharing between industry stakeholders and healthcare providers. No one by himself can face this kind of challenge and show the reflexes needed in order to deliver the desired outcome at the global level.
Accelerating Clinical Research and Innovating Clinical Practice
By Andreas Pollner, Managing Director, Bayer Hellas, CDH Pharmaceuticals for the cluster GR-CY-BU-RO-MO
Covid-19 has put the global pharmaceuticals industry in the spotlight, with the world urgently working towards a breakthrough in the fight against the pandemic. But while we now all focus on the pandemic and make our contribution to overcome it, there have been challenges for the global pharma market prior to Covid-19 and there will be challenges beyond. How are we going to tackle them?
Bayer is the only global company simultaneously researching improvements in human and plant health. Systematic and intensive collaboration among researchers beyond their original specialization is providing new impetus. From world-renowned pharmaceutical products to high-tech platforms and from innovative diagnostics technologies to crop protection methods with advancing technology, Bayer lives an innovation culture across national borders and areas of research.
For Greece, we strongly believe that in order to accelerate healthcare, we need to accelerate clinical research and to innovate in clinical practice, through digital health solutions. Bayer Hellas supports Greek healthcare professionals, patients and government efforts by advancing clinical research through building knowledge from the early stages of medical education to acting healthcare professionals and relevant stakeholders, improving clinical practice to readily absorb the benefits of clinical research and to adopt new technologies in the clinical practice, and raising awareness among the patient community.
Collaboration and partnering deliver essential input in accelerating clinical research and innovating clinical practice. For this purpose, we are working closely with the scientific community, researchers and institutions, other companies and startups, at a local and global level. Because it is not possible to accelerate innovation without collaboration.
Innovation: The Key to a Sustainable Healthcare System
By Zacharias Ragkousis, President and Managing Director, Pfizer Hellas S.A.
Covid-19 has been one of the most challenging health crises during which the power of science and innovation created the medical breakthrough of our lifetime. Pharmaceutical innovation made the seemingly impossible possible by offering to the world as quickly and safely as possible vaccines and therapies to address Covid- 19. Additionally, the public and private sectors proved that they can collaborate effectively to meet challenges and provide innovative solutions during the pandemic.
Undoubtedly, pharmaceutical and digital innovation will play a crucial role in the transformation of healthcare in the years ahead. Innovative biopharmaceutical companies have the potential not only to develop the therapies and vaccines of the future but also to transform the lives of people with serious health issues.
The application of new technologies, such as Big Data and AI, represents a great opportunity in the future of medicine and healthcare. The management and use of data as well as the increasingly personalized medicine, with tailormade treatments for patients with a specific pathology and a clinical and genetic profile defined in great detail, are already helping patients live healthier lives.
In Greece, pharmaceutical innovation has the potential to become the key driver not only for creating a sustainable and resilient healthcare system but also for developing the Greek economy. Ηowever, bold reforms that will shape a strong patient-centered policy and will leverage digital tools are necessary. And we all must work together towards that end. Now is the right time to commit ourselves to carry forward the key learnings of this pandemic and create a strong and sustainable healthcare system for the benefit of our patients.
The Need for a Predict-and-Prevent Strategy in Health
By George Tousimis, Country Director, Amgen Hellas and Cyprus
Healthcare across the world is in a fast-paced transition fueled by innovation in various fields including biology, big data analytics, digital & artificial intelligence. Transition is continuous: each innovative step triggers the next one.
In this exponentially changing environment, the decisions we make today will shape the healthcare of tomorrow. These decisions must secure timely patient access to innovative treatments in our country, overcoming all the inherent distortions of the past.
In order to move forward, we all need to commit to a new mindset: A mindset that will enable the switch from our current inefficient and costly problem finding & fixing model to a new patient-centric predict-and-prevent setup, that will enable us to act proactively to avoid disease, or at least diagnose and treat it as early as possible.
This is not going to be easy; it requires strong political will, long term planning and flawless execution. The current momentum, however, is positive. Our Greece 2.0 resilience and recovery plan is a great opportunity to work together and jointly come up with very tangible, efficient and cost-conscious plans for healthcare.
The innovative pharma industry is very much willing to collaborate with all stakeholders involved— academia, policymakers and patients—for the smooth implementation of those necessary reforms without any delay.
Either we find immediate and effective ways to make the new innovative personalized treatments, that are already on their way, fully accessible to those in need, or we will find ourselves at a point where we will not be able to serve our main goal: ensuring that the right patient has access to the right medicine at the right time in Greece.