Strengthening health in Europe after the COVID crisis and through an ambitious pharmaceutical strategy

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      The global pandemic of COVID-19 highlighted the importance of public health and well-being. Greater attention is being paid to supply chain resilience and strategic autonomy in developing and producing medicines. This (rediscovered) strategic importance of life sciences occurs in a decade long debate over prices of pharmaceutical innovation and concerns over healthcare expenditures sustainability.

      Supporting the leadership and autonomy of Europe in the field of medical innovation (investing in innovation that is) while controlling pharmaceutical expenditures (spending less on pharmaceuticals) seems an impossible conundrum. Can those conflicting goals be at all compatible? The US, which is leading the field in terms of biotech innovation, is also one of the countries with the highest pharmaceutical expenditures in OECD countries. Meanwhile, industry advocates already point out the decade-long decrease in R&D investment in Europe and increasing complexity of bringing new therapies into a fragmented Europe – representing only 20% of pharmaceutical markets (compared to 50% in the US). Yet, this is the problem all European policymakers face today in the context of the revision of EU pharmaceutical legislation with the ambitious goal to support research, innovation, and the sustainability of national healthcare systems. The Pharmaceutical Strategy for Europe aims to establish a regulatory framework to address market failures and meet patients’ needs by supporting industry’s research and technological advances. But there are many other political and legislative discussions which need to succeed to have a life science ecosystem which can combine research, strategic autonomy, innovation and health goals.

      First, and across all policy debates, it is essential to take into account the legitimate expectations of patients. The key challenge is to place patients at the heart of all healthcare policies, increasing their involvement in decision-making and guaranteeing continued access to innovative treatments. The objective is to ensure faster and fairer access to medicines for all patients in Europe.

      Second, it is necessary to secure the EU’s strategic autonomy in healthcare, which implies coordinating national healthcare strategies and diversifying supply chains. It is also important to strengthen the resilience of medical supply chains in order to guarantee access to essential medicines and reduce dependence on third countries. Long-term investment, strategic planning and partnerships with industry are needed to maintain an adequate supply base.

      Third, investment in medical infrastructure capacity and modernization is important to strengthen healthcare systems. Digital transition, artificial intelligence and the European Health Data Space for research and medical data management are major elements in this evolution. However, cybersecurity represents an urgent challenge due to the increasing number of cyberattacks targeting healthcare systems. Measures such as the creation of a European Health Data Space and the adoption of a new regulation on serious cross-border health threats are required to facilitate digital transformation and strengthen data security.

      Finally, when looking at access to innovation – policymakers will need to look at it holistically. Access to innovation is not only what determines pharmaceutical revenues or pharmaceutical budget. Access to innovation is ultimately what determines the success of previous research efforts – how good is European research if its fruits are not available to European patients? It is what determines continuous private investment in Europe – why invest in the development and commercialisation of drugs, if those medicines may not be approved and reimbursed? Could we also run the risk that European private companies or research(ers) decide to continue to focus their efforts outside Europe?

      Most importantly – should we not have as a vision that all European patients have the best access to healthcare the world has to offer? That would require leadership in our infrastructure (medical, digital, supply chain), in our science, and in the therapeutic and non-therapeutic options available to EU citizens.



      Laurent ULMANN

      • New EU pharmaceuticals rules in a strong European Health Union
        Stella Kyriakides, Commissioner for Health and Food Safety – European Commission
      • A Critical Medicines Act for Europe
        Frank Vandenbroucke, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Socials Affairs and Public Health Belgium
      • Building a Strong European Health Union: Blazing a trail in the European pharmaceutical sector
        Sandra Gallina,, Director General – DG SANTE, European Commission
      • The lessons EU learned from the pandemic towards a better prepared and resilient pharmaceutical system
        Dolors Montserrat, MEP (EPP Group – Spain) – EP COVI Report
      • Enhancing the resilience and the competitiveness of the pharma supply chains to secure access to critical medicines and other medical countermeasures
        Pierre Delsaux, Director General of the European Commission’s Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Authority (HERA)
      • Rethinking the EU general pharmaceutical legislation for a competitive, more resilient and healthier Europe
        Nathalie Moll, Director General of EFPIA
      • The patient at the center of all health policies
        Sara Cerdas, MEP (S&D Group – Portugal), ENVI, SANT and COVI Committee Member
      • Share the goal of faster and more equitable access to medicines for patients across Europe
        Nicu Stefănuţă, MEP, (Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance – Romania), Member of Subcommittee on Public Health
      • Health security strategy: strengthening Europe’s pharma industry base
        Olivier Charmeil, Executive Vice President, General Medicines, Sanofi
      • Policy priorities to prepare for the next health crisis – including building more resilient medical supply chains
        Francesca Colombo, Head, OECD Health Division
      • An EU Immunisation Strategy: making Europe more resilient
        Sibilia Quilici,, Vaccines Europe Executive Director
      • The role of pharmacists in prevention and vaccination policies
        PhD Ilaria Passarani, Secretary General PGEU (European Community Pharmacist)
      • The future of European healthcare depends on what happens now
        Ana Paula Carvalho, Western Europe President at Pfizer, discusses the implications of the European Commission’s ‘Pharmaceutical Package’ and shares her perspective on the future of healthcare in Europe
      • Putting patients at the centre of the EU health and pharmaceutical agenda
        Claudia Louati, EPF Head of Policy
      • Getting the message across: A path to a healthy future for Europe
        Nicolas Chornet, SVP Manufacturing, Moderna
        Chantal Friebertshaeuser, SVP, General Manager, EMEAC, Moderna
      • The European Health Data Space to promote innovation and health in areas of high needs
        Tomislav Sokol, MEP (EPP Group – Croatia), ENVI Co-Rapporteur for European Health Data Space
      • Towards an integrated European health approach for better and equal patient care
        István Ujhelyi, MEP (S&D Group – Hungary), Member of the ENVI Committee
      • Driving towards or away from innovation?
        Alexander Natz, Secretary General, EUCOPE – European Confederation of Pharmaceutical Entrepreneurs
      • Regulatory modernization to support innovation and growth
        Genevieve Michaux, Partners at King & Spalding (Brussels)
        Eva Temkin, Partners at King & Spalding (Washington D.C.)
      • The value of investing in Advanced Therapy Medicinal Products: combining sustainability, innovation and respect for patients’ rights
        Mariano Votta, Director Cittadinanzattiva-Active Citizenship Network
      • Promote more joint European procurement of medicines
        Kateřina Konecná, MEP (GUE/NGL Group – Czechia), Member of SANT Committee and COVI special Committee