“More Support for Local Companies”
The Austrian company AMOMED Pharma GmbH has developed into a specialist for pharmaceutical products in cardiovascular anesthesia as well as in intensive and emergency medicine over the last few years.
“Amomed is a privately-owned, independent Austrian company, which markets its products in Europe and globally. We offer what physicians need in critical situations. With our distinct understanding for urgently needed pharmaceutical products, we want to make a decisive contribution to improving the therapy of critically ill patients and to increasing the survival probability of these patients,” explains CEO Dr. Günther Kneissl-Mayer. The company’s goal is to become one of the leading companies in cardiovascular intensive care and anesthesiology in Europe within the next few years.
More Products in the Pipeline
Over the past ten years, the focus of the company was on the area of short-acting intravenous beta-blockers. “One of our most successful products is Esmolol. After being introduced in Austria, it has achieved the second highest prescription rate in Austria – besides Greece – worldwide “, reports Kneissl-Mayer. In addition, three new products were launched in the last two years: Rapibloc, a highly selective, short-acting i.v. beta blocker, Empressin in February 2018 as well as Trisuva in August 2018, which is used in pulmonary hypertension. “Empressin is a vasopressin for treatment of septic shock. These three products plus Esmolol currently make up our core product portfolio, which we want to keep pushing in both the intensive care medicine as well as in anesthesiology. What is special about Rapibloc and Empressin is that they cover a relatively large and important segment and facilitate impressive therapeutic progress,” says Kneissl-Mayer. Over the next four years, additional products from Amomed will go to market with a main focus on cardiovascular therapy.
Solutions for Medical Specialists
Following the philosophy of the company, Amomed seeks to be a “point of contact and an involved solutions provider for medical specialists” and consequently pushes for the development of important niche therapeutic substances. Educational projects including eLearning for physicians are underway, plus, Amomed supports a clinical research program related to sepsis and heart rate control.
Austria: Unbureaucratic Procedures but Lacks Public Funding
The advantages and disadvantages of Austria as a location for a pharmaceutical company must be looked at from various angles – especially as an Austrian company, which in this regard certainly has a somewhat different point of view as a subsidiary of a multinational company, says Kneissl-Mayer. “We develop our products here and market them from Vienna to the world. The strengths of our country, as I see them quite clearly, are the fact that in Austria the official channels are very unbureaucratic and deadlines – for both registration and price approval – “are fairly strictly adhered to.” Furthermore, according to Amomed’s CEO, Austria has very well educated and productive people.
But Kneissl-Mayer also detects weaknesses: “For the pharmaceutical industry in Austria, there is no ideal infrastructure, as there is, for example, in Switzerland. Switzerland just has more to offer in general; e.g. service providers in various areas. In addition, more capital is made available for new developments. Above all, I miss stronger support for Austrian pharmaceutical companies by politics and authorities. These factors are “locational disadvantages in Austria.” He sees another big disadvantage in the low-price level in Austria, which now has reached a comparative level with countries like Bulgaria, which has half the per capita income Austria does. “This is of course also detrimental to the business location Austria. The low prices ultimately also lead to patients having certain innovative products not at all available to them or much later,” stresses Kneissl-Mayer.
Strengthening Local Companies
The Amomed CEO misses that it is a given for authorities and partners in the health care system to support Austrian companies as much as possible. He advocates for considerably stronger backing of Austrian companies in order to make Austria more attractive as a business location. “This concerns, among other things, the authorities: for example, a clearer support by AGES during the registration process would be desirable. But even earlier, in basic research and in the development phase of new products, more financial support through broader and higher subsidies would be important. As already mentioned, the price level urgently needs to be discussed. If we are lumped together in the price negotiations with low-price countries such as Lithuania, then we cannot achieve a price for a new drug in Austria, the country of origin, that would enable our companies to internationalize,” proposes Kneissl-Mayer for strengthening Austria as a business location.
In addition, he would like to see a reduced tax burden as currently being discussed by the Federal Government. Austria is not at the highest level internationally with 25% corporate tax, but there are many countries in immediate proximity with a far lower corporate tax level. “In addition, a further disadvantage of the location is a very high income-tax burden for employees coupled with high ancillary wage costs. Consequently, it is difficult for our company to bring, highly qualified, international specialists to Austria as extremely high gross salaries would have to be paid”, summarizes Kneissl-Mayer.
The low price level and the high tax burden are a clear disadvantage in Austria.
Dr. Günther Kneissl-Mayer, CEO AMOMED Pharma
Eliminating Cost Imbalance and Investing in Prophylactic Measures
Kneissl-Mayer clearly sees the challenges of the future in the financing of new, promising therapy options, such as in the field of oncology and some rare diseases, which will lead to very high costs. “There is already an unhealthy imbalance in cost causation. Oncology now accounts for 50-60% of the drug budget of a typical Austrian hospital, while all other departments have to tighten their belts,” says Kneissl-Mayer. This stands in contrast to the much more extensive anesthesia and intensive care medicine, which only burden the budget with 4-5%, although more people die from sepsis than from breast, prostate and colon cancer combined.
“The demographic trend alone is a reason for increasing health care spending. To be able to finance these rising healthcare costs – including for nursing care – it is politically necessary to set the necessary steps in motion. To do so, we need more offensive strategies by policymakers, the earlier the better, in the areas of medical screening and prevention. Just look at the Norwegian model: Norway managed to save a lot of healthcare cost through increased preventive measures. The costs for targeted medical precautionary measures and campaigns to raise awareness would, of course, need to be covered by the health insurance funds. At the same time, financial bonus-malus systems need to be created, for people to actively participate and to pay attention to their health”, concludes Kneissl-Mayer.