After an omelette breakfast and a catch up with some friends we settled down to the first session of the day chaired by the irrepressible Tony Gavin from Leukaemia Care. This European group meeting on Health Technology Assessments (HTA) and cross border healthcare was a healthy start to the day, unlike my breakfast. HTAs and cross border healthcare is a hot topic and lacks clarity and vision, simply bringing the threads together is the challenge, perhaps digital is the answer and both speakers Martin Visnansky and David Ryner alluded to this.

The always impressive Sarunas Narbutas from Lithuania expanded on the issues of cross border healthcare by presenting the key issues and explaining the complex legal technicalities. The structural differences of healthcare systems in each EU country means that there is much work to do before legal implementation on 25th October 2013. After this date we must prepare ourselves for an influx of healthcare visitors to the UK but conversely this opens an opportunity for us to access dasatinib (a drug not readily available in the UK) from another country.

As the main conference got underway we were treated to a video message from the legendary Spanish tenor Jose Carreras, who is a leukaemia survivor. Giora Sharf then provided updates on the inspirational work of the CML Advocates Network.

After a very broad overview from the World Heath Organisation on generic and counterfeit drugs, Jan Geissler took the bull by the horns and presented hard data collated from 55 countries on the availability and occurrence of generic drugs. My concern still remains, are we debating the right issue here? Surely the proliference of generic drugs CAN be a good thing, the pharmaceuticals who developed the drugs would obviously disagree. We should be asking how we ensure standards and quality control the generic drugs. If this leads us to first-class drugs at reduced prices then I don’t have a problem, making sure this happens is the challenge.

The anzovip case study in Serbia presented by Jelena Cugurovic simply highlights the issue of regulation, transparency and quality control. How can a drug be made available to patients when it is not supported by documentation or trial data. This is an opportunity to put pressure on the pharmaceutical industry and drive prices down using the threat of quality generics. It’s clear that this issue needs some very strong guidance and legislation, the organisation in the best position to provide this , the WHO, seem incapable or unwilling. Lives are being put at risk…and I’m tired of writing that.

The final session of the day gave us an update on CML drugs and clinical developments by 3 well respected medical Doctors from Israel, Italy and Australia. We were presented with a number of areas that included the debunking of myths, the efficiency of combination therapy (with Inferferon) and the latest drug efficiency. Doctor Tim Hughes from Australia was particularly impressive with key studies showing how we can predict response rates in the first 3 months of treatment (TIDAL 1 study). The second study (TIDEL 2) showed the importance of switching treatment (from imatinib to nilotinib) after a set period of time if an optimum response isn’t achieved. The survival rate in TIDAL 2 over 4 years is 97%. Time and time again we are seeing that imatinib is a drug that is being superseded by vastly superior 2nd generation drugs. Imatinib has done a wonderful job for us in the past but ultimately we wouldn’t be using it if cost wasn’t an issue.

The day is over; dinner, beer and bed to come. The day has been intense as expected, lots to think about, take home and action. I’m looking forward to tomorrow but I’m going to have to bring my ‘A’ game when I present to over 100 delegates tomorrow. The pressure is on… Have a good evening and thanks for reading.

PS. I’ll tag the photos when I get home.