EU Ministers of Health attend the informal EPSCO Council in Vilnius on 8-9 July and will discuss long-term perspectives of sustainable heath systems and shaping of EU health policy after 2013.

This civil society coalition is committed to making sure the impacts of the crisis on people living in Europe are recognised in several political processes. The impacts of the crisis on access to medicines and on health outcomes could be taken up in the progress report of the implementation of the 2009 Communication Solidarity in Health: Reducing Health Inequalities in the EU [1], the conclusions of the reflection of process on Towards modern, responsive and sustainable health systems,

 [2] and the follow-up to the Investing in health Paper. This joint action by a diverse coalition of civil society actors should send a strong message to the Lithuanian Presidency to make decisive progress during the next six months. Reports from the national level strongly suggest the problem is becoming worse, doing nothing is no longer an option.

The introduction of co-payments, restriction of coverage, in-affordability of and shortages of medicines is compromising access to universal healthcare in the EU. Rather than focus on short-term measures that undermine quality of care and patient safety the coalition is advocating that EU Member States should address underlining flaws in health systems, like the high price of certain life saving medicines.

The Lithuanian Presidency can take the lead by initiating a debate at EU level. The access to medicines problem and medicines shortages affect a number of EU countries and many types of medicines. The root causes are complex, and an EU solution should address product development, research and innovation, pricing policies and manufacturers’ issues. The civil society actors outline areas for EU action, such as health impact assessment of fiscal consolidation efforts, greater transparency, joint procurement, to improve the rational use of medicines, implement pilot projects for innovative solutions and price reductions for access to medicines, and for sustainable models of innovation that that promote both needs-driven innovation and affordable access to R&D outcomes.

The concerns of civil society actors echo voices of Members of the European Parliament that last week adopted a legislative text on serious cross-border health threats and a resolution on access to care for vulnerable groups. The first text introduces a scheme to enable EU member states to buy medicines jointly at a fairer price. The latter called for Member States to ensure that austerity measures don’t undermine EU values and prevent the most vulnerable citizens, such as undocumented migrants, Roma, the elderly, long-term unemployed, children from poor families and the homeless, from being able to access healthcare.


- Declaration on Access to Medicines- An undeniable right slipping away: recommendations to avert a public health disaster.


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Footnotes

[1] A progress report on its implementation is foreseen to be adopted in July 2013.

[2] This reflection process was requested by member states in 2011, and a final report will be delivered to them next October, with recommendations on cost-effective use of medicines, deployment of structural funds for health investments, effective monitoring of those investments, and better hospital management.

Last modified on July 10 2013.