New Medical Agency aims for greater efficiency, openness and collaboration

27.4.2009 5.00
News item N5-49247
The arrangement of agencies dealing with the supply and control of medicines in Finland is being upgraded to meet changing demands. The result will be a new medicines agency.

The importance and extent of drug therapy in healthcare is constantly growing. The new medicines agency will provide greater centralization in the job of authorization and supervision in the pharmaceuticals field.

"It's nowadays possible to treat diseases with drugs for which in the past there were no such drugs available," says MSAH Director General Päivi Sillanaukee. "In neurology, for Instance, a couple of decades ago you would have diagnoses of many diseases but the treatment and drugs for them didn't exist."

Sillanaukee says that there is a quantitative increase in the need for pharmaceuticals as the population continues to age.

"At the same time, the costs of drug therapy are going up. In terms of treatment and controlling prices, it's important that drug therapy is both effective and conducted rationally. Older people often suffer from multiple Illnesses and are on many types of medication at once. In assessing their medication there's a need for both medical and pharmaceutical expertise."

In mid-May the bill on the new agency, approved by the government, was put to Parliament. Under the bill, the agency will start work in Kuopio in 1 November this year. The agency will incorporate the tasks of the current National Agency for Medicines but will increase the scope of cooperation at EU and other international levels.

Much of the media attention in Finland has focused on the location of the new agency out of the Finnish capital, in Kuopio. This has tended to overshadow the reasons for the reorganization of the supervision, development and research of the pharmaceutical sector.

The overhaul of the sector involves all the current authorities that deal with pharmaceutical supply and drug therapy. In addition to the existing National Agency for Medicines, the reform involves a whole range of institutions: the National Supervisory Authority for Welfare and Health (Valvira), the Centre for Pharmacotherapy Development ROHTO and the National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) and the Social Insurance Institution (KELA). The MSAH's coordinating role will increase. The position of the Pharmaceuticals Pricing Board will be decided on in the autumn.

"The existing National Agency for Medicines has worked well and contains much expertise, but the problem has been how to utilize data and information as effectively and widely as possible." says Päivi Sillanaukee. "With the reform we want to create a new more open and cooperative operational culture throughout the whole pharmaceutical sector."

The Finnish Medicines Agency will carry out research and development and strengthen collaboration in the R&D field in the pharmaceuticals sector. It will also be in charge of supervising pharmaceutical products and the use of human tissue for medical purposes. The agency will also oversee the supervision and development of pharmacy operations, and the availability of medicinal products nationwide.

"This reorganization will enable us to make sure that the standard of pharmaceutical supply will remain high in the future," says the Minister of Social Affairs and Health Liisa Hyssälä. "We also need to discover new means of ensuring that society can afford new medicinal products, and in such a way that patients have access to these at a reasonable cost."