On 26 May 2021, the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI) in the European Parliament held a debate on their draft report regarding a Pharmaceutical Strategy for Europe. The final Parliament vote on the Strategy is currently planned for November 2021.
The pharmaceutical strategy for Europe is a major initiative under the European Health Union adopted by the Commission in November 2020. The policy aims to give the European pharmaceutical sector a long-term vision, making it more sustainable and crisis resilient. The objective is also to make Europe a global leader in this critical sector while ensuring access to affordable medicines for patients and addressing their unmet medical needs. The strategy aims to achieve these goals by supporting patient-centred innovation and the development of high-quality, effective medicines.
In her address to the ENVI committee, the Parliament’s rapporteur for the Strategy, Dolors Montserrat (Spain, EPP), supported the Commission’s overarching long-term vision for the policy and its specific objectives, while emphasising a number of key points that will enhance patients’ access to medicines. As such, MEP Montserrat proposed to align the European Medicines Agency’s (EMA) approval times for medicines and therapeutics with national approval times. She also called for the creation of a European framework to guide the implementation of national plans in the areas of rare diseases, paediatric cancers, neurodegenerative diseases, and antimicrobial resistance.
To address shortages of medicines, she suggested considering lessons learnt from the COVID-19 pandemic and promoting a joint European public procurement process for medicines, medical devices, and innovative treatments. In addition, she called for a revision of incentives to increase competition and stabilise the pricing of medicines while ensuring high standards in relation to quality and environmental sustainability.
For people living with diabetes (PwD) and other chronic conditions, the revised pharmaceutical policy holds great potential to better respond to their unmet therapeutic needs in the future. A pre-requisite to ensuring optimal health outcomes for PwD and many other conditions is to guarantee uninterrupted access to the required, affordable medicines (and care) throughout their life course.
To achieve these goals and to ensure comprehensive and meaningful engagement, patients must be placed at the centre of all decisions. PwD and other conditions have a key role to play in fast-tracking the adoption of medicines and technologies addressing unmet needs, identifying priority research and development areas, and, most importantly, in defining the criteria by which the value of a particular medicine or technology can be assessed. To this end, a pharmaceutical strategy that is effective and fit for purpose needs to reflect the important role of patients by involving them as equal partners in all decision-making.