EU Outlines Health Priorities

January 21, 2010
Stephanie Sutton

Stephanie Sutton was an assistant editor at Pharmaceutical Technology Europe.

ePT--the Electronic Newsletter of Pharmaceutical Technology

The EU's Commissioner-designate for Health and Consumer Policy, John Dalli, said that he is looking forward to the challenge of integrating the pharmaceutical area into public health as part of his role.

The EU’s Commissioner-designate for Health and Consumer Policy, John Dalli, said that he is looking forward to the challenge of integrating the pharmaceutical area into public health as part of his role. Last week, Dalli attended a three-hour public hearing held by the European Parliament’s Committee on the Environment, Public Health, and Food Safety (ENVI), which is required by law before a new commissioner is appointed.
“The integration of the pharmaceutical area into public health is one that requires careful management, and I look forward to the challenge. We must strive to reinvigorate this sector through innovation and enhancing its economic competitiveness,” said Dalli in his written responses to ENVI. If appointed, Dalli will also be responsible for the European Medicines Agency (EMA). He added, “I look forward to the upcoming evaluation report on the functioning of the EMA and in this context to evaluating whether there is scope for measures whereby we can optimize the bringing of new medicines to the market as quickly as possible and with the minimum of expense.”
Until the new commission was laid out at the end of November 2009, pharmaceutical policy was previously the responsibility of the Commission's directorate-general for enterprise and industry. Now, however, pharmaceutical policy will be the responsibility of the Commissioner for Health and Consumer Policy, a change that many public-health alliances, such as the European Public Health Alliance (EPHA), the European Consumers Organization (BEUC) and the Association Internationale de la Mutualité (AIM), had been hoping for. "Pharmaceutical policy is an integral part of public-health policy making. Medicines form a major part of treatment measures and are therefore of key importance in safeguarding health. The access to safe, effective, and high-quality medicines is a human right. Therefore, pharmaceutical policy making should put health and human rights at its core,” said the EPHA, BEUC, and AIM in a joint statement in November 2009.
Dalli has pledged that the underlying theme of his work will be “Patients First, Consumers First.” However, he also added during the public hearing that this did “not exclude a strong commitment that the pharma industry remain competitive.” With regard to the European Commission pharmaceutical package, a summary of Dalli’s hearing says that Dalli intends to “move forward quickly with the two noncontroversial parts of the package (pharmacovigilance and falsified medical products), but that the third part, on information to patients, would have to be reassessed.” According to Dalli, more patient perspective is needed in the proposal.
Counterfeits will also be high on Dalli’s list of priorities. He said, “Enforcement is key to an efficient Consumer Policy, and the fight against counterfeiting will be intensified not only because this is an affront to consumers, but also because this attacks Europe’s economic well-being, especially as it undermines innovation.” In particular, he would like to develop initiatives to fight Internet counterfeit practices of pharmaceuticals. He added, “I am well aware that this will be a daunting task and will require the engagement of a number of services and national authorities.”
All 26 candidates for the new EU commission have been subjected to three-hour hearings. members of the European Parliament will evaluate candidates’ knowledge and competence, commitment to the EU, personal independence, and political priorities and will decide by majority vote at a plenary session scheduled for Jan. 26 whether to approve the new commission as a whole.