ECRI wins contract to evaluate drugs in Europe

Eight European countries have come together to figure out if emerging pharmaceutical treatments are worth their cost, selecting not-for-profit ECRI to create a database of clinical evidence behind those drugs.

Ultimately, ECRI’s findings will help Ireland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Netherlands, Belgium, Portugal and Switzerland to decide what drugs should be covered and at what cost.

“Industry often develops things and claims that there’s lots of advantages, but at the end of the day it’s very cumbersome for all involved to really demonstrate that it [a new drug] is truly is better than what is existing,” said Dr. Marcus Schabacker, president and chief executive officer of ECRI. “And often these [new drugs] things are much, much more expensive than existing treatments. It is a fair question to ask, is it worth the money? And that’s what we’re trying to help to answer.”

ECRI uses what’s known as horizon scanning to cull data on drugs—usually still in phase 1 of development—from medical literature, abstracts, financial reports, presentations and interviews with relevant doctors, patient groups and scientists to create reports on drugs and for the database. The countries, coming together as the International Horizon Scanning Initiative, chose ECRI for a four-year contract.

The work will be similar to what ECRI did for the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality between 2011 and 2015 that was initially funded with appropriations through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act in 2009 to monitor emergency healthcare innovations. Later the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute picked up the effort with a contract through ECRI.

“When AHRQ provided the service, a lot of international countries used the available database, and they were kind of left in limbo when AHRQ closed it down,” Schabacker said.

The eight countries formed the project in 2019. The research effort could eventually also focus on medical devices and could affect countries’ national healthcare systems. The findings could lead to them to seek more authority to negotiate drug prices and authorize treatments.

“They want to have this information so they can make decision about future reimbursements or even, if they even going to allow the process to get the drugs approved in the respective countries,” Schabacker said. “We believe that the work we do is going to significantly impact policy in those countries.”


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