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Economy Makes European Cardiologists Think Twice
- pressured on treatment costs
 
 
  MedPage Today
Published: August 28, 2010
 
STOCKHOLM -- Hours before the official opening of the European Society of Cardiology 2010 congress here, the organization's leaders told reporters that cardiologists in European countries are feeling heat to hold the line on treatment costs.
 
On the other hand, worldwide economic woes don't seem to have affected attendance or exhibitor support at this year's meeting, with more than 27,000 active delegates expected.
 
ESC President Roberto Ferrari, MD, of the University of Ferrara in Italy, said that even though the group's 52 member nations have some form of national health insurance, cardiologists in those countries are now often asked to justify the use of brand name drugs over generics.
 
Moreover, he said development of new cardiovascular drugs is perceived as a less attractive market for the pharmaceutical industry -- because of struggling economies and a sense that, because of the tremendous recent strides in cardiovascular disease treatment, future improvements are likely to be small.
 
Meanwhile, he noted, a new cancer drug can become a blockbuster for its maker even though it extends life for only a few weeks.
 
In cardiology, "we extend life for seven to 10 years," said Ferrari, but proving that benefit means trials of many thousands of patients or studies that last for many years -- expensive undertakings when trials of oncology drugs can enroll a few hundred patients with a treatment duration of months rather than years.
 
Ferrari and Fausto Pinto, MD, PhD, who serves as chair of the ESC program committee, hastened to add that the scenario described by Ferrari has not yet occurred, but Pinto said, "this is a real concern for us."
 
Pinto, a professor at Lisbon University in Portugal, said at the opening press conference that more than 26,000 "active delegates" -- physicians, nurses, and other health professionals -- had already arrived onsite at the meeting and more were expected to register over the next few days.
 
A total of 9,511 abstracts were submitted for presentation -- down about 400 from last year's meeting in Barcelona -- and 4,197 were accepted for presentation.
 
Of note, the United States, which last year ranked number nine, did not make the list of the top 10 countries presenting abstracts. Germany was ranked first in abstract submissions this year, and Pinto said that one surprise this year was that Japan is now ranked third in abstract submissions.
 
About half of the active delegates at this year's meeting are here because someone else paid for their travel and registration costs. Pinto said that is about the average for supported attendees and he noted that, while many of them are traveling on grants from industry, others are supported by universities and non-profit organizations.
 
While U.S. professional meetings have struggled to keep a distance from industry funding while still receiving the support needed to run scientific meetings, the influence of industry at the ESC congress has not been a major concern -- but the group's leaders indicated that change is coming.
 
Ferrari told MedPage Today that next year presenters at the ESC will be required to make financial disclosures. At this point, there is no requirement to disclose competing interests.
 
"And we are not going to do this by simply requiring that a disclosure slide be shown," he said, noting the disclosure slide is de rigueur for U.S. meetings. "We are going to try to do something more complete because the slide -- it is up there for an instant and then it is gone," said Ferrari who snapped his fingers to illustrate his point.
 
But Ferrari declined to elaborate on the ESC's exact plans for handling disclosure.
 
 
 
 
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