Northern Ireland’s Medicines Optimisation Innovation Centre (MOIC) and The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) have announced a new partnership to deliver ‘triple win’ benefits to patients, NI Health and Social Care (HSC) and the economy.

Starting with the bold aim of eradicating Hepatitis C in Northern Ireland, the organisations will put in place a new framework to improve patient access to the latest treatments, make more effective use of HSC resources and increase cross-sector medical research.

The partnership agreement signed by MOIC and the ABPI will create a new process whereby HSC will look to industry to help tackle major health challenges which can be addressed by innovative treatments.

Industry will also be able to propose new approaches to unmet health need, which can then be rapidly rolled out across Northern Ireland. One of the first areas the partnership will tackle is Hepatitis C, known as the ‘silent epidemic’ because many sufferers do not know they are infected and therefore do not seek treatment.

Hepatitis C can cause serious liver damage, cancer, and premature death. Incidence is on the rise in Northern Ireland, with cases increasing by 53% in 2019 against the previous ten year average. Untreated, the disease is associated with major costs and productivity losses, estimated for the UK at between £210-£427 million by 2035.

However, a new generation of treatments known as direct acting antivirals can cure the condition, creating a real hope that it can be eradicated as a public health challenge. Maximising access to these treatments in Northern Ireland will is key to delivering that goal and will be an early focus of the new ABPI-MOIC partnership.

Mike Scott, Director of MOIC said:
“We have a long-standing positive relationship with the ABPI and look forward to the benefits that our new partnership will bring. “I’m delighted that tackling Hepatitis C will be one of our first goals. In 2016, the UK signed up to the World Health Organization Global Health Sector Strategy on Viral Hepatitis, which commits participating countries to eliminate the disease as a major public health threat by 2030. We believe our new partnership with the ABPI will help create the conditions for NI to exceed that target.”

Cathy Harrison, Chief Pharmaceutical Officer NI said:
“The Department of Health welcomes the new partnership between MOIC and the ABPI. We believe it will ensure that collaboration is focused on where it can add most value in making innovation as widely available to patients as possible.”

Colette Goldrick, Director ABPI Northern Ireland and NHS Engagement said:
“Cross-sector partnership agreements have already proved effective in GB, and we are delighted to be working with MOIC to bring the same benefits to Northern Ireland.
“Our partnership with Greater Manchester for example has already led to three substantial projects in the fields of Hepatitis C, cancer, and cardiovascular disease, matching NHS needs with industry offers. We want to do the same in Northern Ireland.”