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ESMO Press Release: ESMO Spearheads International Collaboration to Assure Patient Access to Safe and Effective Cancer Medicines

ESMO is increasingly contributing to the work of the WHO, the EMA and the EUnetHTA
19 Nov 2013

Lugano, Switzerland - The European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO) has stamped its authority on the international stage by boosting its collaboration with international health and regulatory bodies. ESMO is increasingly contributing to the work of the World Health Organization (WHO), the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and the European Network for Health Technology Assessment (EUnetHTA).

ESMO is the leading pan-European professional organisation committed to advancing the specialty of medical oncology. ESMO’s influence extends beyond Europe as shown by its official involvement in WHO activities. ESMO has been granted ‘official relations status’ with the WHO, which is the highest recognition by WHO of a non-governmental organisation. In this role, ESMO serves as a technical advisor to the WHO for cancer-related matters and the two organisations are jointly executing a three-year work plan. Shared projects, such as the Global Opioid Policy Initiative1, an international collaborative survey to evaluate the availability and accessibility of opioids for cancer pain management, provide data that are essential to WHO cancer control programmes, and support ESMO members worldwide.

Andreas Ullrich, WHO Medical Officer for Cancer, said: “ESMO’s mastery of the medical oncology field is invaluable to the WHO and helps us to carry out our global programmes on cancer. Our joint opioid survey, for example, identifies the challenges to delivering recommended patient care in individual countries and shows us where barriers exist and where to target our efforts.”

He continued: “ESMO’s official engagement at the global scale to support access to cancer treatment is important to the WHO. The coming together of a ‘Global Cancer Task Force’ under ESMO’s leadership is the result of ESMO’s official statement on the WHO Global Action Plan on Non-Communicable Diseases delivered at the 2013 World Health Assembly. An international task force of this calibre is exactly what is needed to advise on the implementation of the plan at the national level. ESMO will be a key partner in this project, because we urgently need the input of medical professionals on the front-line of patient care to provide us with their views on how cancer services should be organised, especially in developing countries.”

ESMO is also an active contributor to the activities of the EMA, the regulatory body responsible for the scientific evaluation of medicines for use in the European Union. The approval of effective cancer medicines is in fact crucial for the practice and profession of medical oncology.

ESMO helps the EMA to access advice from leading oncologists for the evaluation of new cancer medicines in Europe. ESMO also supports EMA’s role by disseminating key oncology information to healthcare professionals on the safe and rational use of medicines, and is a formal member of the EMA Human Scientific Committee’s Working Party with Healthcare Professionals’ Organisations.

Isabelle Moulon, EMA Head of Patients and Healthcare Professionals in the Stakeholders and Communication Division and Chair of the HCPWP, said: “One of the Agency’s priorities is to foster its interaction with stakeholders and particularly with EU scientific societies. We rely on ESMO’s vast network of expertise to support the Agency’s work in the evaluation of cancer medicines and to readily disseminate new information on these medicines to as many patients and physicians as possible”.

Once a cancer medicine is considered to be safe and effective, it is granted market authorization by the European Commission to be made available throughout the European Union. However, before it reaches the patient, it undergoes a second approval process for reimbursement by national Health Technology Assessment (HTA) bodies. To facilitate and improve the quality of assessments across Europe, EUnetHTA was established to develop collaboration among HTA bodies, and to advise the European Commission and Council of Ministers on how to create a sustainable European HTA network.

As a member of the EUnetHTA Stakeholder Forum, ESMO is instrumental to achieving EUnetHTA’s goal of improving patient access to effective cancer medicines. Together with other stakeholders ESMO provides advice to EUnetHTA on its Joint Action work programme and supports its aim of developing reliable, timely, transparent and transferable information for HTA bodies in each European country.

Finn Boerlum Kristensen, Chair of EUnetHTA’s Executive Committee, said: “As a prominent member of our Stakeholder Forum, ESMO provides expertise on all matters related to oncology. ESMO’s contribution is essential to ensuring that EUnetHTA has the most up-to-date and comprehensive information to develop the most effective HTA model for Europe.”

Paolo Casali, Chair of the ESMO Public Policy Committee and ESMO representative at EMA and EUnetHTA, said: “ESMO’s influence and impact on cancer policy worldwide continues to grow. The ESMO Public Policy Committee is dedicated to keeping cancer a high priority on political agendas and forging partnerships with the main stakeholders is crucial to achieving this.”

Martine Piccart, ESMO President, said: “ESMO’s work with the WHO, EMA and EUnetHTA is fundamental to our goal of improving the quality of cancer care for patients across the globe. The availability of cancer medicines directly affects the daily practice of ESMO members and their ability to treat cancer patients according to best practice as indicated in the ESMO Clinical Practice Guidelines2. We will continue to be proactive in our advocacy activities and propose concrete, practical solutions to political and regulatory issues for the benefit of our patients.”

Notes to Editors

  1. Global Opioid Policy Initiative (GOPI) to evaluate the availability and accessibility of opioids fo cancer pain management. Survey results will be published as a Supplement of Annals of Oncology on 28 November 2013. The GOPI project is a follow-up to the European survey: Cherny N., Baselga J, de Conno F, Radbruch L. Formulary availability and regulatory barriers to accessibility of opioids for cancer pain in Europe: a report from the ESMO/EAPC Opioid Policy Initiative. Ann Oncol. 2010;21(3):615-626
  2. ESMO Clinical Practice Guidelines provide oncology professionals with a set of recommendations for the best standards of cancer care, based on the findings of evidence-based medicine

About the European Society for Medical Oncology

The European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO) is the leading European professional organization committed to advancing the specialty of medical oncology and promoting a multidisciplinary approach to cancer treatment and care.

ESMO’s mission is to advance cancer care and cure through fostering and disseminating good science that leads to better medicine and determines best practice.

ESMO’s scientific journal, Annals of Oncology, ranks among the top clinical oncology journals worldwide. ESMO events are the meeting place in Europe for medical oncologists to update their knowledge, to network and to exchange best practices.

Last update: 19 Nov 2013

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