- CAR-T-cell therapies are innovative treatments being employed with good results in blood cancers and are under study for solid tumours
- The Hospital Clínic de Barcelona is the first public hospital to develop its own version of this therapy at a vastly lower price than its commercial alternatives, which surpass 300,000 euros.
- No es Sano (It’s Not Healthy) organisations implore the Ministry to keep investing in public initiatives like the Clinic’s and not let the knowledge created with citizens’ taxes be transferred to the pharmaceutical companies for them to keep developing and profiting from, without protecting the underlying public investment.
The new CAR-T-cell immunotherapies are one of the alternatives with the most promising futures for cancer treatment. This innovative therapeutic procedure takes advantage of our immune systems’ capacity to recognise and attack tumours. At present, they are being used in haematological tumours – particularly lymphomas and leukaemia – and in multiple myeloma. The first two commercial therapies of this type were approved in Spain in 2019, at costs skyrocketing above 300,000 euros per patient. At this time, the Hospital Clínic de Barcelona was already working on its own version of this procedure, called ARI-0001, which was authorised at the beginning of this year by the Spanish Agency of Medicines and Medical Products (AEMPS). It has a vastly lower price, a bit less than 90,000 euros.
We cannot miss out on this opportunity
In this setting, the It’s Not Healthy campaign, made up of medical and consumer organisations and NGOs, of which Salud por Derecho (Right to Health) is the promoter, sent a letter to the government today imploring it to invest in these therapies that are being managed within the Public Health System itself, stopping them from being transferred to the private sector. Experiences with other CAR-T therapies marketed by pharma companies have proven that this transfer could entail a price increase in these treatments and a loss of the public investment that they have received for many years. Now they could end up being passed on to companies with no conditions to guarantee their social return, an occurrence that is extremely common in these types of negotiations.
‘We are worried that all of the hard work and investment could be endangered by an unconditional transfer to the private sector. This would destroy the possibility of therapies with such promising and crucial results to cure future illnesses from being at the service of the population’s interests and not solely private interests. These therapies should be consolidated within our health system and strengthened even more,’ claims the letter addressed to Minister of Health Carolina Darias.
Leaving these treatments within the pharmaceutical companies would represent a failure – in the campaign’s opinion – not only because of their current results, but also because of the great expectations surrounding the clinical trials now being conducted on solid tumours. ‘We believe it is crucially important for your ministry to implement the initiatives required to guarantee that academic CAR-T-cell therapies continue to be led and developed in Spain at the initiative of public centres,’ declares the letter.
Open investment and science for public CAR-T
All of us at the campaign call for investments to cover expenses from the initial research to production at hospitals in the Spanish Health System and their administration to patients. The letter also asks for these types of therapies, which are largely moving forward due to public funds, to be shared with other centres and have ‘open and non-exclusive licenses’.
The Clinic’s successful experience has already reached several Spanish hospitals via clinical trials. Many of these centres are working on starting up their own structures to be able to offer this innovative therapy to their patients. Coordination between the different players participating in the process is essential.
For these reasons, It’s Not Healthy calls for the immediate implementation of the announced National Centre for Advanced Therapies and implores in the letter that this organisation has the economic and human resources necessary ‘to be able to transfer and share knowledge between national and international centres, so that all the advances occurring in our country’s public arena can be shared and assessed’. We also demand that the legislative changes are executed that are required to remove existing barriers and ensure that academic CAR-T-cell therapies can be integrated into the National Health System.
Therapies such as CAR-T have become the only alternative for many patients, adults and children who have exhausted all other therapeutic options. Thus, ‘now, more than ever, they need the promotion and firm commitment of the Ministry of Health and all autonomous community regional health ministries,’ the letter concludes.
You can read the entire letter (in Spanish) here.