Head of German drug watchdog resists pressure to step down
The head of Germany’s independent drug watchdog has criticised the pharmaceutical industry for allegedly trying to muzzle his institute for its often critical stance on drug companies.
Peter Sawicki, head of the Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG), told specialist pharma business reporting service APM Health Europe that the demand for independent, scientifically-checked information on drugs would not diminish should he be dismissed under political pressure next summer.
“We have shown that it is possible to have independent and dependable drug analysis and that it is possible to survive in these shark-infested waters,” Sawicki told APM after a week of speculation that his contract, which ends next August, would not be renewed. It is widely mooted that his critical attitude toward drug companies does not fit with Germany’s new industry-friendly centre-right government.
"For Germany it has been something new to check things independently and scientifically,” he said. “We have shown that sometimes the experts are not wearing any clothes. They don't like us showing this, but we have done it, we have taken away some of their power."
IQWiG is an independent scientific institute contracted by the German government to investigate the benefits and harms of specific medical treatments. On the basis of the institute’s reports, German health officials can rule out that certain drugs and treatments will be paid for by the country’s statutory health insurers.
Sawicki has consistently attracted the ire of pharma firms by publicly criticising those who fail to provide IQWiG with data, or whose information does not stand up to scrutiny.
IQWiG has spent more than two years preparing to expand its role from just assessing the effectiveness of drugs to providing full cost-benefit analyses, announcing in October that it was ready to start doing so. But Sawicki suggested that should his contract not be extended, the institute would suffer a serious loss of credibility.
Rainer Hess, the head of the G-BA, Germany’s federal commission of health care insurers and physicians, told Die Tageszeitung last week that ending Sawicki’s contract would be a setback in the battle for greater transparency in health care.
“My fear is that his dismissal would give the impression Sawicki was removed politically due to pressure from the industry,” he said.