About this Research Topic
The availability of novel innovative treatment regimens has significantly changed clinical practice, offering highly effective treatment options for patients with chronic diseases such as cancer, hepatitis c, rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis, thus improving the quality of life of patients and leading to reduced loss of productivity, and reduced direct and indirect costs. Nevertheless, the extent of the use of innovative medicines depends greatly on the capacity of the health system to provide them, while financial and administrative restrictions often limit patients’ access to them.
In particular, significant barriers to new medicines are often experienced by patients with chronic, severe diseases, such as delays or long travel times in getting a prescription or accessing medicines, bureaucratic processes and complex distribution system of pharmaceuticals, as well as high out-of-pocket costs. Moreover, there are also factors at the patient level that are often associated with limited access to effective care, such as of low socioeconomic status, lower educational level and with limited social support.
Research evidence suggests that there is wide variation in access to new medicines among countries that is often explained by the countries’ GDP per capita, as well as differences in the reimbursement and distribution process. In addition, the onset of economic crisis has exacerbated the inequalities in health amongst and within European countries. In many cases, the pharmaceutical policies implemented as a response to the recession, such as the decrease in public pharmaceutical expenditure and the increase in cost sharing, have shifted the financial burden to households and led to differentiation of population’s health outcomes.
However, timely and unimpeded access to appropriate treatment is crucial for patients with chronic, severe diseases, determining the evolutionary course of their disease and their quality of life. Furthermore, reduced or delayed access to treatment can bring considerable burden on society due to the significant costs stemming from the consumption of unsuitable health services, the need of treating advanced-stage disease and also the increased productivity losses and disability benefits.
In light of the above, the aim of this Research Topic is to assess access to innovative pharmaceutical care for patients across different disease areas and geographical locations, in times of rising healthcare costs and limited healthcare budgets. In particular, the objective of the Research Topic is to:
• record barriers to pharmaceutical care, both at the system and the patient level
• analyze the impact of barriers on patients’ health and quality of life
• identify the factors that determine equitable access to pharmaceutical care
• propose policy measures and changes that could ensure timely and unobstructed access to new medicines
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