Despite the medical progress that has been made, it is still not possible to cure many diseases. No suitable therapy is available for two-thirds of known diseases. Moreover, demographic developments will result in a greater number of patients with chronic and age-related diseases such as dementia, arthritis and cardiovascular disorders. Against this background, research is focused on innovative medicines with a substantial advantage over known therapies and approaches that can provide rapid and effective relief and a cure.
Major progress thanks to innovative products
The most important aspects for patients are quality and safety. New medicinal products and therapies make a major contribution to improving quality of life and increasing the chance of survival and a cure for patients with cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. Many medicines have even led to a massive reduction in the mortality rate of whole groups of patients, such as those with AIDS or leukaemia. New medicines also enable many patients to be treated outside of hospital. This allows them to continue their daily routine and often leads to faster re-integration into the work process.
Low cost to the economy
This is desirable not only in terms of social policy but also from an economic point of view. New medicinal products can lead to savings by achieving the desired therapeutic outcome more efficiently, thus shortening the length of nursing care required and reducing or even eliminating the need for patients to spend time away from work.
However, the political discussion surrounding medicines often pushes the beneficial aspects into the background. Discussion centres almost exclusively on prices. Yet if the intention is for everyone to grow older and, more particularly, grow older in good health, emphasis must rather be placed primarily on the benefits of medical progress. Assessments of health benefits can provide important information on the relative efficiency of therapeutic alternatives and thus be an important decision-making aid.
Benefit assessment using HTA
Many countries assess health benefits in one form or another, most frequently the benefits associated with medicinal products. The term Health Technology Assessment (HTA) has become established in the international arena for the systematic evaluation of medical procedures and technologies. HTAs provide information about the medical, social, economic and ethical aspects of using health technologies. The objective of benefit assessment must be to keep the health service open to innovations in order to improve the quality of care and treatment outcomes.