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Italy facing €2 billion drugs funding shortfall in 2019 - health economist

MILAN, 11 Jan (APM) - Italy is facing a €2 billion drugs funding shortfall in 2019 at time when spending is expected to increase because of new, costly medicines coming onto the market, according to an opinion piece published by Quotidiano Sanità on Monday.
Fabrizio Gianfrate, a professor of health economics and a market access consultant, noted that the budget which was approved at the end of last year foresees total health funding of €114.4 billion in 2019, the same amount as last year. Drugs funding, which is calculated as a fixed percentage of total funding, will therefore also remain the same.
But drugs spending is estimated to have been €1.8 billion over budget last year. Spending will increase significantly this year because of the arrival of innovative and costly therapies which have already been approved by the European Medicines Agency (EMA).
According to Gianfrate, the amount provided for drugs spending in the 2019 budget will be €2.5-3 billion below actual expenditure. The shortfall will only be partially offset by payback and through separate funding to pay for innovative drugs.
Italy’s new pharma policies are unlikely to make much difference in the short term. They require regulatory changes at both national and regional levels which will take time, the economist wrote.
Gianfrate said Italy is already one of the slowest countries to approve reimbursement of new drugs. He expects that the time taken will lengthen considerably as a result of the funding shortfall.

Founder of Italy’s Five Star Movement signs pro-science pledge

The founder of the Five Star Movement (M5S), Beppe Grillo, has signed a pro-science pledge, sparking a wave of protests across social media including from his own supporters who are distrustful of vaccines, La Repubblica reported on Thursday.
A scientist, Roberto Burioni, who is known for his work in the field of human monoclonal antibodies, invited politicians and influential figures to sign ‘a pact’ to defend science. Former prime minister Matteo Renzi and Beppe Grillo were among the first to do so.
One of the five pledges is to counter ‘pseudo science’ which puts public health at risk, including AIDS denial, anti-vaccines activity and the promotion of therapies which are not based on scientific evidence.
Grillo dismissed criticism of his decision to sign, suggesting anyone who was shocked by it was thinking in the same way as people who believe the earth is flat.
“There has been no change, I am still against making vaccines obligatory, which is a political issue. [I am not against] the vaccines themselves which, when they are safe and effective, represent the fruit of science,” he wrote on his blog.
According to La Repubblica, this is a significant development because opposition to vaccines is strong among M5S supporters and played a role in the party’s election campaign. It also constitutes another issue which will divide M5S from its governing partner, the far-right League, the paper said.

AIDS scientist Fernando Aiuti dies

Immunologist Fernando Aiuti, who founded the Italian AIDS association ANLAIDS, has died at the age of 83 from complications after a fall in hospital, Il Sole 24 Ore reported on Thursday.
He is best known for having kissed an HIV-positive woman on the mouth in public at an event in 1991 to demonstrate that the virus cannot be transmitted orally. The scene was captured by a photographer whose picture was published by ll Sole 24 Ore alongside its article announcing Aiuti’s death.

Political vetting of scientists not behind advisory body sacking

A spokesperson for the Italian government has denied that vetting scientists for political activity influenced the decision to sack 30 members of a health ministry advisory body (APMHE 61334), Il Sole 24 Ore reported on Friday.
Riccardo Fraccaro, minister for parliamentary relations, was responding to questions about the affair in the chamber of deputies. He said the vetting was carried out after the decision about the advisory body had been taken and could not have influenced it.

Therapeutic equivalence rules could halt pharma growth

Italy’s new therapeutic equivalence rules could halt pharma industry growth and put jobs at risk, the head of branded lobby group Farmindustria has warned, ANSA reported on Monday.
Massimo Scaccabarozzi noted that the drugs industry contributes €31 billion to the Italian economy in sales and therefore puts in more than it takes out in spending on medicines.
He said the decision to use therapeutically equivalent groups to choose which drug to reimburse - without scientific evidence to support the decision - could mean some companies close down. He also warned that doctors will not be able to choose the best treatment for patients.
“What the drug companies are calling for is simply that there be free industrial competition,” Scaccabarozzi said.
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