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NPS MedicineWise is winding up its controversial commercial subsidiary VentureWise

NPS MedicineWise will wind up operations of its wholly owned subsidiary VentureWise during 2020, the organisation announced on Monday.

VentureWise is the commercial subsidiary of NPS MedicineWise that provides services to non-government, for-profit organisations such as pharmaceutical manufacturers, health insurance and other health service providers.

It was initially established in 2015 to diversify funding sources, which was viewed as “necessary for organisational sustainability”.

“The NPS MedicineWise Board recognised some time ago that funding diversification was a necessary reality for the organisation, and relying on a sole funding source is too high risk for any company,” said Chair Peter Turner in the organisation’s 2018 Annual Report.

He added that establishing VentureWise would enable the group to extend its reach and impact beyond its largely Commonwealth-funded activities.

While NPS Medicines receive some funding from other government and non-government customers, the majority of its funding comes from contracts it holds with the Australian Government Department of Health.

In the 2018-19 Budget, the Federal Government committed to NPS MedicineWise with four years of funding to 2022 – although the amount provided to both the organisation as well as the National Return of Unwanted Medicines was cut by a total of $40 million over the four-year period.

The decision to wind up VentureWise follows an internal review to examine the most effective and efficient way of providing services and products into the future to address areas of significant QUM need and help deliver on the mission of the organisation, said NPS MedicineWise in a recent statement.

CEO Adj A/Prof Steve Morris said the change, effective from Monday, will allow NPS MedicineWise to ensure its sustainability as a not-for-profit organisation while continuing to achieve impact in quality use of medicines across the sector with partners to the National Medicines Policy.

“VentureWise Pty Ltd was established in 2015 as a small start up to explore opportunities with new markets and customers in the commercial sector,” said Mr Morris.

“Projects by VentureWise have successfully contributed to the NPS MedicineWise mission to improve the use of medicines and medical tests in areas we were not otherwise funded to work. However the NPS MedicineWise Board has resolved to streamline our business delivery model.

“NPS MedicineWise will continue in its own right to work with a broad range of partners and stakeholders to improve the way medicines and other health technologies are used, with a strong emphasis on maintaining our independence, robust governance, delivering on mission and ultimately optimising our impact,” he said.

Work underway through VentureWise will continue until the completion or transition of contracts, at which time the entity will be wound up.

While NPS MedicineWise would not confirm the actual number of projects undertaken by VentureWise since its inception in 2015, some examples include the following:

  • In 2018-19, NPS MedicineWise was commissioned by VentureWise to research, design, develop, implement and evaluate an independent educational program funded by Boehringer Ingelheim and Eli Lilly to support the prevention of cardiovascular events in patients with type 2 diabetes and established cardiovascular disease.
  • In 2018-19, an independent medical educational grant from Gilead Sciences Ltd enabled VentureWise to commission NPS MedicineWise to deliver a program to optimise the use in primary care of antiretroviral therapy for people living with HIV.
  • In 2017-18, a program aimed at increasing GP knowledge about difficult to treat asthma and its subtypes was managed by VentureWise and jointly funded by AstraZeneca and Novartis.
  • In 2017-18, a project on the management of long-term unmet health needs of people living with HIV was managed by VentureWise and funded by Gilead Sciences.
  • In 2017, funding from Gilead to VentureWise through an independent education grant enabled NPS MedicineWise to design, develop, implement and evaluate an education program in line with the Fifth National Hepatitis C Strategy to support GPs in their new role managing chronic hepatitis C.
  • In 2016, VentureWise was awarded an independent medical education grant from GSK to support improved COPD management in primary care.

Following news of the GSK grant in 2016, then NPS MedicineWise CEO Dr Lynn Weekes hit back at allegations that the organisation – which prides itself on being an independent not-for-profit – was accepting drug company money in exchange for access to its GP patient data program through VentureWise.

“Recent media reports may have you believing that NPS MedicineWise has sold its soul to big pharma. Don’t believe everything you read,” Dr Weekes responded. “Claims that we are selling data and ‘selling out’ to big pharma are misleading and simply do not reflect the real situation.

“Outputs are reports and insights, not patient data. All data held by NPS MedicineWise are de-identified,” she said.

“As a not-for-profit, most of our funding comes from government. There are some who have argued for a long time that we cannot be truly independent because we are funded by government and are therefore nothing more than a ‘mouthpiece’.

“Our independence is again being called into question by some because we have been awarded an independent medical education grant by GSK. We have never compromised our principles in terms of our independence, whether we’re funded by government or a commercial company.”

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