10 July, Brussels –Today, seven leading civil society organisations (1) have issued a joint declaration (2) on the dreadful situation faced by millions in Europe regarding access to medicines and the dire health outcomes that result. The aim is to drive the discussion on these distressing issue which undermines public health in Europe.
In addition, today the European Commission is set to propose its Innovation Investment Package (3). One of the package’s key areas will be innovative medicines to generate new antibiotics and to pool resources with EU Member States to develop new treatments against poverty related diseases. The declaration signatories advocate that boosting research and innovation based on social criteria can bring medicines prices down while making them more effective and their production rather sustainable.
It is time for EU policy-makers to take action and ensure access to affordable healthcare throughout Europe. Life-saving medicines are becoming a luxury across the continent. In particular, this is reaching unacceptable levels in the EU regions hardest hit by the crisis, with migrants, minority communities, undocumented, uninsured and dependent persons as well as the elderly bearing the brunt.
This joint declaration sends a strong message to the Lithuanian Presidency (4) to make decisive progress during the next six months. With soaring numbers of people restricted from receiving the inexpensive and effective drugs they need, the problem is reaching appalling proportions. Turning a blind eye to such a public health tragedy is no longer an option. Swift action is required.
Medicines shortages affect a wide variety of medicines, which compromises the overarching values of public healthcare: universal access to good quality care, equity and solidarity. Austerity policies applied to biomedical products, like introducing co-payments or restricting coverage, are ill-advised measures that do nothing to address the underlining flaws of EU Member States’ healthcare systems. In fact, poor access to medicines inhibits patients from solving their health problems, resulting in an overall greater cost to the public healthcare budgets.
Distorted pricing policies and disruptive manufacturers’ practices are only two of the numerous factors leading to medicines shortages. Yet even if these factors are complex in nature, the EU can be an effective actor in some areas. Today’s launched declaration outlines some of these areas: health impact assessment of fiscal consolidation; enhanced transparency measures; joint procurement; a more rational use of medicines; and sustainable models of innovation that promote affordable access to R&D outcomes to pinpoint a few.
Last week the European Parliament (5) introduced a scheme to enable EU Member States to jointly buy medicines at a fairer price and called on Member States to ensure that people living in Europe have equitable access to safe, effective and affordable medicines, diagnostics and treatment (6). There is a growing realisation that decades of hard-won advancements in medical treatments cannot be thrown down the drain in the name of budget restrictions. Public health authorities will find the access to medicines declaration a tool to steer their decisions in a direction that improves access to medicines to those who need it, contributing to a better quality public healthcare in Europe.
Notes to editors
1) The European Public Health Alliance coordinated the joint declaration that was co-signed with Collectif Interassociatif Sur la Santé (CISS), Doctors of the World, European AIDS Treatment Group (EATG), Health Action International – Europe (HAI Europe), Salud por Derecho - Right to Health Foundation and Trans Atlantic Consumer Dialogue (TACD).
The statement is a follow up to a conference entitled Can EU Citizens Afford Their Medicines? organised at the European Parliament on 16 May.
2) Declaration on access to medicines - An undeniable right slipping away: recommendations to avert a public health disaster.
3) A multi-billion euro investment package to boost research and innovation in sectors that are crucial to Europe’s economy and society. The package will be anchored by public-private partnerships (PPPs) in areas such as innovative medicines.
4) Lithuanian Minister of Health Vytenis Povilas Andriukaitis has named the sustainability of heath systems, continuity of Ireland’s efforts to reach general approach on clinical trials on medicinal products for human use and mediating the discussions on the Regulations on medical devices as well as on in-vitro diagnostic medical devices as the priorities during the Lithuanian EU Council Presidency.
5) The EU’s ability to cope with serious cross-border health threats such as coronavirus, the 2011 E. Coli epidemic or the 2009 H1N1 flu will be strengthened by legislation voted on Wednesday 3 July. The text introduces an early warning system, facilitates joint buying of vaccines and will make it possible to declare an EU-wide emergency in the event of a crisis.
6) On 4 July the European Parliament adopted a report on access to care for vulnerable groups.With access to healthcare and other social support services threatened by budget cuts, the report uncovers important findings and proposes measures to improve the access to care, support services and healthcare of the most vulnerable in society.
Javier Delgado Rivera, at email@example.com or 32 (0) 2 233 38 76.