New report highlights the potential gains from earlier access to medical technologies

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The Medical Technology Association of Australia has released a new report it says shows the benefit to patients of faster-funded access to new medical technologies.

According to the association, the report highlights the challenges faced by the many Australian patients who need timely access to medical technologies but may be left waiting due to lengthy approval and reimbursement processes.

It says the report identifies a ‘valley of death’ for Australian researchers and innovators that see the development of some promising medical technologies halted, either before clinical trials or because of regulatory, reimbursement, market access and procurement challenges.

"This sees many early-stage concepts leaving Australia to launch overseas," said the MTAA.

“For the first time, we have the full picture of the value of medical technologies to Australian patients, the healthcare system, and the economy. What is clear, is that we are a nation that embraces medical innovation – and our patients are the beneficiaries," said CEO Ian Burgess.

“However, we have a huge opportunity to ensure Australians have access to the medical technologies they need sooner. This report highlights that Australia’s current policies, systems and processes present barriers to the millions of Australians these devices intend to help. Long delays to access life-changing technologies and a system that makes it ‘too hard’ for certain technologies to be delivered here, means some Australians do not have access to procedures, practices or devices that are standard practice in other countries.

“Industry, government and the health system must work together to ensure no Australian is left waiting longer than they should for medical care that could save their life. By that point, the technology may be old.

"The process is too costly and complex for many smaller local MedTech companies. We want sovereign capability for Australians to have fail-safe access to MedTech when they need it most – this was never more apparent than during the pandemic,” said Mr Burgess.

"Every day, more than 320 Australians receive surgery to replace hips and knees, improving their quality of life," says the report.

"Advances in medical technology have contributed to fewer people dying from heart disease, from 17.2 years lost per 1,000 people in 2003 to just seven by 2022.

"Artificial eye lenses are helping Australians to see clearly again by relieving cataracts. Each year more than 250,000 people undergo cataract surgery to replace the eye lens with an artificial one."

The report also says that the medical technology industry employs 17,000 people in Australia and a further 34,000 people through jobs that support and supply the sector.