J&J's Susan Martin on the need for a shared agenda on reform

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The managing director of Johnson & Johnson Medical, Susan Martin, says the medical technology sector is an 'intersection' with the current push for the application of health technology assessment (HTA) to decision-making.

The sector is currently negotiating reforms to the Prostheses List that is the framework under which private health insurers fund medical devices. The reform process was announced in the 2021-22 Budget.

Ms Martin and her counterpart at Johnson & Johnson's prescription medicines business (Janssen), Biljana Naumovic, spoke with HealthDispatch as the company released a new report prepared by Dr Brendan Shaw (Shawview Consulting) - Getting Australia to the front of the queue.

"I can tell you if we apply the pharmaceutical HTA model to medical technology, we will be having the same discussions in two, three and four years time, where we are behind other countries when it comes to access. Australian patients will be accessing old technologies and businesses will be questioning their investment in the country," said Ms Martin.

She continued, "Reform is complex. It is shortsighted to take a simplistic approach that says we are spending this much today and we want to be spending that much tomorrow. Reform is possible but it can only work in the best interests of patients if we come together as we have on COVID-19 and work towards creating a shared reform agenda."

"There is some frustration at the moment over the direction of reform but there is no doubt the medical technology industry has been a key player in this debate and a contributor. As part of our 2017 agreement with the government, over $1 billion has been saved. This is not savings for the government, by the way, it is savings directly to health insurers that should be going to consumers who are paying premiums," said Ms Martin.

Ms Naumovic said the range of reviews and inquiries is a "moment in time" for Australian patients.

"We have to work to make sure these processes lead to outcomes like they never have before. Innovation is now happening so quickly that other countries, countries that are comparable to Australia, are reforming their systems in anticipation of needing to accommodate the new technologies and treatments that are making a remarkable difference for patients.

"It is not ok that patients are waiting over 1,000 days for funded access to new treatments. It is just not ok and it needs to change."

The Janssen boss said the industry needs "data and evidence" to drive change. "Patients need us to overcome any shyness on making the case for change," said Ms Naumovic.

"With the accelerating speed of innovation, if we do not catch up now, it is never going to happen. We have to agree on what are the first few things we need to do in 2022 and get them done.

"We do not have to be militant in discussions with the government but we do need to be clear, focussed, and understand what are the non-negotiable issues we will not concede.

"The fact remains these are all issues that contribute to declining investment. In a world focused on innovation where people have the opportunity to live healthier and longer lives, spending on health is an investment and we have never seen a better example of that than during the pandemic."