Executive Director, European Federation of Neurological Associations
Across Europe, millions of people of all ages struggle with neurological diseases.
Collectively, brain disorders are the biggest economic challenge for European healthcare, costing around €800 billion each year. Combined with this financial cost is the huge personal burden, causing enormous suffering and disability – as well as impacting on patients’ opportunities in education, employment and beyond.
Add to this mix that, as life expectancy increases across Europe, the prevalence and cost of these conditions are growing and – for most neurological diseases – we neither know the cause nor have a cure.
New and better treatments are urgently needed: this means increases in both public funding and industry investment are necessary, and should be supported by a regulatory and legal environment that facilitates both innovation and access to affordable medicines. However, the opposite appears to be the case.
Neurological diseases are among the most complex and least understood in medicine, with research being hampered by issues such as the relative inaccessibility of brain tissue. This means that only 8% of drug candidates in this sector succeed (compared with 15% in other disease areas). And, these drugs take longer to develop: late-stage clinical development takes one third longer than for other categories.
Unsurprisingly then, research and development of new treatments for neurological diseases is less attractive to pharmaceutical coampanies because of the aforementioned reduced success rates and longer development cycles; resulting in a shorter period of market exclusivity in which to recoup costs. So the pharmaceutical industry overall is considerably reducing its investment in this area.
In this environment, then, we need to see more innovative approaches to diagnosis, treatment and management to ensure that our healthcare systems are not overwhelmed by patients suffering from chronic neurological disorders in the coming years. This means developing partnerships between patients and healthcare professionals/administrators to enable best use of the limited resources at our disposal.
We also need to work together to address large health inequalities which persist in the EU, where many patients do not have access to effective treatments for neurological diseases, adequate healthcare services or well-educated specialists.
To tackle these issues, the European Federation of Neurological Associations (EFNA)* launched the Member of the European Parliament Interest Group on Brain, Mind and Pain in 2015. This initiative aims to raise political awareness of the impact of neurological and chronic pain disorders in Europe and to encourage policy solutions aiming to prioritise these disorders, encourage research, increase access to innovative treatment, improve quality of life and decrease stigma.
EFNA believes in the concept of ‘Partnership for Progress’ and is encouraging all stakeholders to get involved in this initiative by tabling pertinent topics for inclusion on the agenda. We invite you to get in touch to learn more and to partner with us as we bring the challenges, opportunities and exemplars of best practice – that you see every day in hospital healthcare – to European policy-makers for consideration. More information can be found at: www.brainmindpain.eu.
*EFNA is an umbrella organisation for pan-European disease-specific patient neurology groups. See: www.efna.net