Medical devices ranging from simple needles to life-saving high-tech implants should receive stronger support from governments as they help patients faster than drugs do, argues the European medical technology industry association (Eucomed) in an interview with EURACTIV.
“Government decisions to reimburse medical products currently on the market will be key to the development of that technology,” said Guy Lebeau, the chairman of Eucomed. “Innovation of our industry is big and can be bigger,” added Lebeau, calling for increased government support.
Industries that produce equipment to screen and diagnose disease and health conditions, for example, “need to be more involved in the creation of health care systems,” argues Lebeau. This, he said, would “allow innovation by supporting the industry that can bring solutions faster than the pharmaceutical industry.”
“A medical device solves a problem once you put it in, real-time. These real-time results help patients fast. We use eHealth today to make people aware of what they can bring,” he said, explaining that the medical device industry needs only 18 months to bring a product to the market whereas the pharma industry innovation cycle is completely different – around 10 years. He also explained that the industry operates with a view to helping reduce hospitalisation, patient recovery time and other aspects that have “huge economic impact”.
“eHealth is one of the ways to help our products to be known and the technology to be understood,” said Lebeau, explaining the medical device industry’s stance on eHealth. For Eucomed, eHealth is “an issue of investment and innovation” and one of the association’s main goals is to “convince our partners and health care stakeholders that supporting innovation in this sector is going to help eHealth.”
According to him, stakeholders need to be convinced because the medical device industry is not yet well known and people do not understand what products can offer. He explained that, compared to the pharmaceutical industry, the medical device sector is very heterogenic in its products and technologies, which range from needles to very sophisticated equipment, such as pacemakers and minimal invasive surgery tools.
However, Lebeau said that there is not enough data available on the financing of devices, nor proof of how they improve workers’ productivity or economic outcomes in Europe. Therefore, Eucomed has created a research institute (see EURACTIV 05/10/2007) to study these two issues throughout Europe. The first results, presenting recommendations on financing and proof that medical devices are bringing wealth, will be published in October 2008.