Interview: we spoke to Israel Garcia, Country Manager Director for Germany and Austria at Werfen, about the challenges of demonstrating the value of diagnostic information.

Biomarkers are likely to play a key role in the future of healthcare, driving clinical decisions and making health systems more sustainable. Securing a fair price during reimbursement negotiations is vital for in vitro diagnostics (IVD) companies, and with his deep experience in the healthcare industry, Israel sees opportunities in harnessing the power of information.

Tell us about your background and work with Werfen?

I worked in the pharmaceutical industry for 20 years – until almost three years ago. For Almirall, a Spanish company, I was General Manager for Mexico, for Portugal, and then for Spain – the company’s largest market. From there, I moved to Boehringer Ingelheim where I left my role as Regional Business Manager for a group of countries in Europe to take up my current position at Werfen. Today, I am General Manager for Germany and Austria and we have a strong portfolio in the IVD market.

What are the main challenges in demonstrating the value of diagnostics?  

We need to show that our tests drive better medical decisions. If we diagnose patients more accurately, they can be treated with the right medicines. This has clear benefits for patients, but it also reduces pressure on clinics and is good for national healthcare services – less money will be wasted on inappropriate treatment.
If treatment is delayed, patient outcomes do not improve, and more care may be needed. If the wrong treatment is given, it may also lead to side effects in patients who are treated in an inappropriate way.

Do IVDs offer value for money to health systems?

The IVD industry helps healthcare systems to use their resources well. We improve the health of the patient and offer efficiency, yet the available budget has historically been small, compared to pharmaceuticals, for example.
Healthcare professionals know the value of IVDs very well. However, pharmaceutical companies are powerful and invest a lot of resources in communicating the value of their products. We need to continually improve how we engage with decision-makers to ensure a fair price for our products that reflects the contribution diagnostics make.

If diagnostics are so important, why do medicines get all the credit for improved treatment outcomes?

When it comes to patient outcomes, sometimes medicines are seen as more important than IVDs. Of course, that’s not the full story: both are complementary. Healthcare professionals need both – diagnostics and medicines – to deliver benefits to patients. To put the patient on the right path, physicians need to know what is causing the patient’s illness. The role of IVDs is now growing, thanks to new biomarkers.

How must reimbursement adapt to the biomarker era?

We need to show payers the value new biomarkers can bring. Our job is to show how our solutions benefit health systems by offering better diagnosis. In practice, this means producing value dossiers with the highest possible scientific evidence to show the benefit of IVDs to payers and health systems.
Again, when we compare the reimbursement levels in IVDs with the prices of new drugs, the differences are huge. The IVD industry, especially companies offering new biomarkers, are bringing much more value to the system than is currently reflected in reimbursement levels. I’m quite sure this is going to change because governments, payers and health systems will realise the value of diagnostic information. Investing in IVDs is one way to spend resources well.

How has ValueConnected helped you demonstrate the value of your products?

In the IVD industry we are still building up our capabilities in market access. We have much less capacity than the pharma industry when it comes to showing our customer the value of our product.
We need to do three things: to analyse the reimbursement environment in a given country; to define a reimbursement strategy; and to compile high-quality clinical evidence to present in a value dossier. We worked with ValueConnected on the first part: analysing reimbursement in Germany. They provided us with a lot of value because they have knowledge and expertise that we don’t have internally.

Describe your interactions with the ValueConnected team?

Through ValueConnected we worked with an expert in the German market. It’s very important to have this specialist expertise in a specific market rather than consulting a generalist with knowledge of reimbursement systems. Their expert was a mathematician who provided excellent analysis of the reimbursement system. The level of expertise was really high.
The entire process was supervised and coordinated by Value Connected Manager Director Ernesto Nogueira and our teams worked closely together. The outcome was a very interesting analysis on the possibilities for seeking reimbursement for our solution, considering the value that we bring to healthcare institutions.

Looking ahead, what are the challenges for the future of IVDs?

The key will be to improve our market access capabilities and our knowledge of reimbursement systems to achieve prices that are aligned to the value we bring. IVDs will play an increasing role in the future of healthcare, with new biomarkers playing a critical part.