DG’s Column

Dear Readers,

Welcome to my editorial column!

The purpose of my column is to provide perspective on the issues that the biopharma industry we represent is addressing in collaboration with partners here in Geneva and around the world. These include the innovation ecosystem, vaccines, pandemic preparedness, antimicrobial resistance, access to medicines and many others. Over the years, I’ve written for a number of publications including a weekly column Basler Zeitung, a leading Swiss newspaper from my home town. Today, I am also a contributor to publications such as Diplomatic Courrier and IPWatch. I hope you enjoy my thoughts, which reflect my commitment to continue bringing you expertise and reflections on key issues and policies that relate to my work with IFPMA. I know that in this fast changing world, divergent opinions matter and I would like to engage you in these conversations and hear your thoughts as well. Please add your comments below or follow me on Twitter: @ThomasCueni

So let’s get talking!

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Thomas B. Cueni
This blog was first published on the Diplomatic Courier on 13 September 2018   The alarm has rightly been sounded on a silent killer. Faced with the staggering figure that 40 million people lose their lives each year to non-communicable diseases (NCDs), it is time to leave our comfort zones ...
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This blog piece has been first published in Africa Health Journal, July 2018 Latest Ebola response holds key to global health security Thomas Cueni discusses the important role of immunisation and the critical role of the pharmaceutical industry in combatting new threats such as with Ebola The recent deadly outbreak ...
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This letter was first published on the Financial Times on 4th July 2018, in response to the article titled "Pharma sector failing to tackle superbugs, says O’Neill" (26th June 2018)   I respectfully disagree with Jim O’Neill’s comments on pharmaceutical companies’ inaction on combating antimicrobial resistance (“ Pharma sector failing ...
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This blog was first published on the Media Planet supplement for the Guardian on 27 June 2018   Last month, President Kagame told the World Health Assembly: “In Rwanda, a combination of community-based health insurance, community health workers, and good external partnerships led to the steepest reductions (a halving) in ...
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This blog was first published on Devex on 23 May 2018   At the 2014 Nobel Laureate Meeting in Lindau, Germany, the late Professor Hans Rosling quizzed his audience of leading scientists on average life expectancy. Given three choices, just over a quarter of the crowd picked the correct answer ...
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This blog was first published on EPM on 23 April 2018. We have been lucky to live through a period of improving global public health, facilitated in part by innovation from and partnerships with the pharmaceutical industry. However we now find ourselves facing a new threat from an old foe ...
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This blog was first published on Diplomatic Courier on 21 April 2018. “Business as usual will not work any longer regarding NCDs. The global burden and challenge of NCDs is of such a scale and magnitude that it requires thinking out of the box and new partnerships and financing mechanisms”. ...
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This blog was first published on Diplomatic Courier on 11 April 2018.   1948 saw the birth of the UK’s National Health Service providing healthcare free for all at the point of delivery - and 55 countries meet for the inaugural World Health Assembly.  Seven decades later, Ebola and Zika ...
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Before the World Economic Forum, Davos’ first claim to fame was as a haven for wealthy tuberculosis sufferers in the 1800s and 1900s: the rarefied air of the Magic Mountain, as Thomas Mann dubbed it, offered a “certain” cure. The Davos visitors of those days, like Mann’s Hans Castorp, were ...
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This interview was first published on NZZ on 24 February 2018. Interview by Birgit Voigt   NZZ on Sunday: Why is the pharmaceutical industry not developing more new antibiotics? Thomas Cueni: Today, there is simply no economically realistic business model that would justify investments of over one billion Swiss Francs ...
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This blog was first published on Life Science Leader on 22 January 2018 As we start 2018, those of us in the healthcare sector are anticipating greater progress in global health. Without a doubt, healthcare has been transformed over the past five decades, through innovation in both prevention and treatment ...
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This blog was first published on Diplomatic Courrier on 1st December 2017. These humbling, resilient young women are at the epicentre of the continuing HIV/AIDS crisis in South Africa. They’re strong and they need to be. They provide healthcare, lend helping hands to abandoned victims, raise awareness, help shoulder the ...
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This blog was first published on Life Science Leader and Pharma Times on 14 November 2017. Stand and deliver - practical steps to stop antibiotic resistance It is rapidly becoming the world’s biggest killer. Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is on course to overtake cancer (8.2 million annual deaths) and account for ...
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Help wanted in the fight against AMR: World Pharma Association wants to see incentives - but also more regulation This interview was first published on Medscape Deutschland Antibiotics resistance is a global problem. At the World Health Summit 2017 in Berlin experts issued an urgent call for new developments and ...
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In my home country, Swiss citizens do not take kindly to the state trying to nudge them towards a healthier lifestyle. Be it smoking, alcohol, sugar in food or a lower level of salt consumption, they are quick to rant about the Taliban at the Federal Office of Public Health. ...
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This blog was first published on Devex on 10 October 2017 Almost 20 years ago, in 1998, 39 leading pharmaceutical companies sued the South African government to stop legislation on parallel imports and generic substitution. It was one of the dumbest things the industry ever did. What started as a ...
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The headlines were about North Korea, warmongering, sanctions and, well, diplomacy. But this year’s UN General Assembly in New York in truth devoted far more time to sustainable development, climate change, mass migration and poverty – and how to provide universal  health care (UHC), including for the 400 million who ...
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I have not forgotten the Chinese taxi driver who wanted to sell me a Rolex for $100 in Singapore a while back. Nor have I forgotten his absolute fury when I laughed and told him that if I wanted to buy a fake Rolex, I could have done it in ...
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Fair pricing activists applauded the news earlier this month that the FDA approved another drug to cure hepatitis C. That this new medicine is cheaper and treats people quicker than the existing hepatitis C drugs goes to show how fast healthy competition can change the outlook on health spending. Not long ago, ...
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We are used to social media exploding and controversy over statements made by President Donald Trump. But over the past month, a shockwave of anger and charges of European arrogance and racism have been levelled at France’s new, charming, and youthful President.  What triggered the social media storm that spread ...
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In January 2016, more than 100 companies and industry associations had signed a Declaration on Combatting Antimicrobial Resistance at the World Economic Forum in Davos, followed by a Roadmap of several big pharma at the UN High-Level Meeting in September 2016 – a common framework of principles for global measures to curb the development of antibiotic resistance. ...
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Thinking about how to be a healthy older person is like thinking about glaciers crashing into Arctic seas as a result of climate change. Too far away to imagine, and we’ll worry when the effects reach our doorsteps. In reality, the challenge is here today asking all of us, at ...
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  I must admit I had been somewhat skeptical about the "WHO Fair Pricing Forum" held last week in Amsterdam. There were multiple reasons for my apprehension. One concern was clearly that the notion of “fair” is pretty much in the eye of the beholder, another was that none of ...
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Over the course of my lifetime, human lifespan extended by three decades.  Today we hope to lead healthy lives well into our 80s. Now I have to declare a vested interest in this topic:  I am an aspiring role model for active and healthy ageing (I’m past 60 and look ...
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As we look forward to hosting the Geneva Pharma Forum during current World Immunization Week, finding solutions to pre-empt or mitigate vaccine shortages is top-of-mind here at IFPMA and for our members. What’s more, recently the first Access to Vaccines Index (ATVI) was published – a set of report cards ...
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After 30 years in the world of policymaking and business, there is not much that can faze me; but it is fair to say that nothing could have prepared me for meeting Agnes. This has been a week when Geneva played host to ministers, scientists, WHO officials, philanthropists and business ...
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Angkor Thom. Siem Reap Cambodia
The name Kantha Bopha is well known in Switzerland. Beat Richner, pediatrician, cello player, and savvy fundraiser, has been working there tirelessly for over 20 years on his life-long project. He had already worked at the Children's Hospital in Phnom Penh in the early 70’s, then the terror of the ...
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Animal testing has been and will remain controversial. Whereas most people accept the need to test new medicines or vaccines on laboratory animals before they are authorized for human use, it is also widely accepted that there is a need to strike the right and careful balance between expected benefit ...
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It is quite amazing how health policy discussions are often held in a distorted and simplified manner. Nowhere does this apply more than in discussions on drugs and the pharmaceutical industry. Although a large portion of public health spending is accounted for by hospitals, doctors, other health care personnel, and ...
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(This is a re-posting that was first published on Monday 13 March in the Basler Zeitung) ‘Vets are expensive. Antibiotics are cheap.’ In a nutshell, this was a quote extracted from last week’s BBC report of the growing global problem of antimicrobial resistance highlighting the plight of overuse of antibiotics on ...
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Costs of cancer drugs have risen significantly in Switzerland over the past ten years, from an estimated CHF 445 million to CHF 775 million at ex-factory prices. Bearing in mind future combination treatments in immune-oncology, treatments which are likely to bring from now on unhoped for outcomes, it is timely ...
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We need an informed societal debate on how much prolonging life should be allowed to cost (Note to our readers: This is a re-posting that was first published on Monday 27 February in the Basler Zeitung) Recently, the Secretary of Health for the Swiss canton of Zurich, Thomas Heiniger, called for ...
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