September 29 2014, Brussels - When questioning the EU Commissioners-designate this week, Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) should reject the decision by Jean-Claude Juncker, the European Commission President-elect, to move pharmaceutical policy from the health to the enterprise portfolio (1). The main driver of EU policies concerning pharmaceuticals and health technologies should be promoting and protecting health and patient safety, not simply boosting the competitiveness of the industry.
The shift of EU pharmaceutical policy will put Europe’s security at risk (2) by promoting profit over public health and is in contradiction with how pharmaceutical policy is governed in all 28 EU Member States. With the responsibility for pharmaceutical and medical devices policies removed from Dr Andriukaitis’ portfolio, he will not be able to fulfil his mandate to ensure pandemic preparedness and develop expertise on performance assessments of health systems. This will affect (3) the well-being of more than 500 million people living in Europe.
The public health community has joined forces with ten EU Member States (4), the president of the European Parliament (5), and several MEPs (6) in calling on President-elect Juncker for a "satisfactory response" to the shift of pharmaceutical policy ahead of the Commissioners’ hearings by moving it back to the health portfolio of the European Commission.
In his response (7) to an open letter (8) sent by 35 public health organisations, President-elect Juncker explained that the objective of the move was “a deeper and fairer internal market with a strengthened industrial base”. This assessment is disconcerting as it fails to recognise that medicines are not an ordinary internal market good and that pharmaceutical policy is crucial to the sustainability of health systems, not solely an instrument for promoting economic growth.
EPHA would like to respond to arguments made that Juncker’s decision could be beneficial to innovation (9). Neither innovation in the pharmaceutical sector, patient safety, nor public health are included in the mission letter (10) of Commissioner-designate Bieńkowska. Market incentives are not fit tools to address public health and patient needs, both of which should be the main driving forces behind pharmaceutical policy. Promoting innovation and competitiveness are also important components of the pharmaceutical sector, but this can only be achieved in coordination with other policies, not by jeopardizing a coherent EU health policy.
“I call on all MEPs to make the reversal of this decision to move pharmaceutical policy to the Commissioner for Enterprise, a requirement of the European Parliament’s endorsement of Mr Juncker’s College of Commissioners-designate,” concluded Emma Woodford, EPHA Interim Secretary General.
Javier Delgado Rivera, EPHA Communications Coordinator at email@example.com or +32(0) 2 230 3076.
Notes to the editors
(1) Earlier this month, when announcing his College of Commissioners-designate, Mr Juncker revealed that health technology and pharmaceutical policy will be moved from the competences of the Commissioner-designate for Health and Food Safety, Dr Vytenis Povilas Andriukaitis, to the portfolio of Elżbieta Bieńkowska, Commissioner-designate for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs.
(2) [Press release] Juncker puts Europe’s security at risk by promoting profit over public health.
(3) These items are included in the mission letter of Dr Andriukaitis.
(4) A proposal on the move tabled by the Belgian Health Minister during an informal Health Council meeting on 23 September was supported by colleagues from France, Cyprus, Austria, Greece, Bulgaria, Slovakia, Lithuania, Portugal and Romania.
(5) Schulz demands response from Juncker on environment and health portfolios, European Voice, 26 September
(7) Mr Juncker’s response letter can be read here
(9) It was reported that at the Informal EPSCO Council, the Polish Health Minister put forward these arguments. EPHA wrote a joint letter with Polish Civil Society Organisations to express concerns about this statement.
EPHA profiles of European Commissioners-designate key for public health