Indeed, it is a luxury when a global priority aligns with one's own passion, job scope, and company's vision.
World Health Day falls on 7 April 2019. It is heartening to see the focus on educating people on the meaning of universal health coverage and to advocate for equal access to healthcare. This is inspiring and validating as I continue to drive deeper access for patients, facilitated by Novartis's commitment to reimagining the practice of medicine.
A recent white paper suggested that the total healthcare spending of six ASEAN nations will rise by 70% over the next two decades. This phenomenon is largely driven by aging populations and rising rates of non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, cancer, and heart disease. In light of the coming ‘silver tsunami’, statistics have shown that the elderly population that makes up 9.6% of the ASEAN total population will swell to 21% by 2050, thus increasing the strain on healthcare spending. Without a doubt, the underprivileged in ASEAN countries will inevitably face the largest impact on unmet healthcare needs.
Enhancing access and health equity in Asia
Since 2017, Novartis established its Novartis Access Principals to integrate access strategies into how we research, develop and deliver our new medicines globally. In Asia, we offer patient access programs in developing markets such as Cambodia, Myanmar, Philippines and Vietnam. One key focus area is on how we go “beyond the pill” to provide end-to-end solutions that identify and reduce barriers preventing patients from achieving optimal health outcomes. This includes working with healthcare systems to support disease awareness, improve diagnosis and referrals, to ensuring adherence to clinical treatment guidelines. We believe that taking a holistic approach adds value to the healthcare system, improves health equity, which will deliver better patient outcomes and cost-efficiency in the long-run. In addition, to reach the most underserved populations globally, Novartis has established its Novartis Social Business program.
No single organization can solve the access to healthcare problem alone.
Recently, our global efforts to increase access to medicine were recognized on the 2018 Access to Medicine Index. Novartis has risen rank to second position as we continue to create models for good practice in areas such as access planning and licensing. However, we cannot do this alone. Development of and timely access to new medicines requires a strong ecosystem that focuses on patient outcomes and recognizes the value of innovation. Our commitment to patients and caregivers is to continue to expand the scope of our access efforts, and invest in projects and initiatives that the global health community has identified as pressing priorities regardless of its commercial propositions. We encourage government stakeholders, insurers, patient advocacy groups, healthcare and R&D institutions to partner with us to strengthen the health ecosystem. Through leveraging our collective abilities, and resources of all stakeholders to address these issues, we can make progress on this global challenge.
As many ASEAN countries continue to develop and offer universal healthcare coverage, let us all join hearts to remember that more work needs to be done. Through collaborative partnerships of both public and private organizations, we can deepen access to healthcare and deliver better outcomes in Asia and around the world.
-Jonathan Tan Head of Patient Access for Novartis Asia Cluster