MEPs welcome new Pharmaceutical Strategy for Europe

The European Commission’s Strategy, which aims to ensure the supply of medicines and vaccines to all citizens, also seeks to encourage innovation by European pharmaceutical companies.

By Martin Banks

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at the Parliament Magazine

26 Nov 2020

The Strategy, announced on Wednesday, is seen as a “key” component of a European Health Union and the Commission says it will help to establish a “future-proof and crisis-resilient” EU pharmaceutical system.

The Commission says the Strategy includes an “ambitious agenda of legislative and non-legislative actions” over the coming years covering the whole ecosystem of pharmaceuticals.

Flagship proposals include a revision of pharmaceutical legislation and cooperation will be encouraged between national authorities on pricing, payment and procurement policies to improve the affordability and cost-effectiveness of medicines.

Support will be given to research and innovation, notably via Horizon 2020 and EU4Health and to promote public procurement for antimicrobials and their alternatives.

Parliament debated the strategy on Thursday and it will also be discussed at the EPSCO council meeting on 2 December. It comes with the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic still claiming hundreds of lives across Europe every day.

MEP reaction to the strategy was swift, with the S&D group saying it will help ensure access to safe, effective and affordable medicines.”

“It is good that the Commission acknowledges that our pharmaceutical system does not meet patients’ health needs, and that it is characterised by excessive prices of medicines and disproportional revenues” Kim van Sparrentak, Greens/EFA

The S&D deputy leader who is responsible for health, Heléne Fritzon, said, “Even before the Covid-19 crisis, there were shortages and inequities in relation to access to medicines. All future steps taken need to ensure that patients are in focus.”

“This is a great opportunity for the EU and Member States to strengthen health care for patients and ensure that medicines are affordable and available to all. At the same time, it is also an important opportunity to boost competitiveness and incentives for pharmaceutical industries.”

“It is also crucial to use this opportunity to make sure Europe will never again experience shortages of medicines and medical equipment in the event of new pandemic threats. We now expect this strategy to be turned into real and coherent legislative proposals.”

S&D environment committee coordinator, Jytte Guteland, added, “This is an important development for Europe’s citizens. It is imperative that access to safe, effective and affordable medicines is ensured across all of Europe.”

“We demand increased transparency on pricing and reimbursement, to ensure that governments are better able to negotiate prices to ensure the affordability and accessibility of medicines. Ultimately, this is about ensuring good health for all and building a more resilient Europe together.

She added, “The revision of existing legislations and further actions should provide a better framework to ensure that patients, no matter their citizenship or postcode, will have access to the best health care available. We need to look at all aspects of the life-cycle of medicines and we are pleased to see the holistic approach the Commission is now suggesting, which will also benefit Europe’s strategic autonomy.”

“This is a great opportunity for the EU and Member States to strengthen health care for patients and ensure that medicines are affordable and available to all. At the same time, it is also an important opportunity to boost competitiveness and incentives for pharmaceutical industries” Heléne Fritzon, S&D

Dutch Greens/EFA MEP Kim van Sparrentak, a member of the Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee, noted, “It is good that the Commission acknowledges that our pharmaceutical system does not meet patients’ health needs, and that it is characterised by excessive prices of medicines and disproportional revenues.”

“But when it comes to finding effective solutions, the strategy lacks urgency and concrete commitments regarding transparency. EU funding for pharmaceutical companies is not made conditional on their transparency and all the reviews of pharmaceutical legislation are postponed until 2022.”

“If the Commission really wants to prioritise public health needs over the profits of big pharmaceutical companies, it has to put its words into action. If this Commission wants to ensure accessible and affordable medicines for all European citizens, the review of pharma legislation cannot be put on hold any longer.”

Fellow Greens/EFA deputy Tilly Metz, a member of the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety, said, “The strategy is right to address the access and availability of medicines. Medicines and vaccines must be affordable and accessible to all. It is unacceptable that big pharma can raise the cost of their products to such an extent that people can no longer afford medicines.”

“The Commission is right to review incentives and obligations in pharmaceutical legislation. The Commission and national competition authorities should perform more investigations and impose fines on companies that abuse their dominant position in the European market by charging excessive prices.”

“The Corona crisis has shown the urgent need for the EU to step up efforts to fund and coordinate independent research into medicines and vaccines with the aim to address public health needs.”

Further comment came from Commission Vice-President for Promoting the European Way of Life, Margaritis Schinas, who said, “Effective and safe medicines, vaccines and treatments have helped to tackle some of the leading causes of disease and life-threatening illnesses in the past.”

“These products will be crucial to uphold the health and well-being of the European citizens in these challenging times. The strategy supports the EU's pharmaceutical industry to remain competitive and innovative, whilst addressing the needs of the patients and those of our health systems.”

Speaking at the same press conference, Stella Kyriakides, Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, said the Commission was “delivering on our commitment to create a future-proof and patient-centred pharmaceutical environment in which the EU industry can innovate, flourish and continue to be a global leader.”

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