News and Opinions  –  2020

The new Pharmaceutical Strategy for Europe – an opportunity to put public interest first

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ReAct welcomes the European Commission's initiative to develop a new strategy for the pharmaceutical sector in Europe. The proposed strategy should be seen against the background of several years of heated discussions in Brussels on how to address the increasing problem of high-priced medicines and patients’ lack of access to such medicines in a number of EU Member States.

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The EU’s ambition to strengthen the current system and better prepare for and respond to public health threats will require the European Commission to start setting priorities based more on public health and public interest, and less on securing economic returns for the private sector. For antibiotics this should be done by implementing the principles of de-linkage and ensuring a fair return on public investment, guaranteeing that products are both affordable and subject to public health-driven stewardship policies. In an earlier policy brief published by ReAct, key points were outlined on public health principles that should govern any public funding spent, to secure equitable and sustainable access to new antibiotics.

In addition to its own submission to the EU Pharmaceutical Strategy, ReAct also supported a joint position paper in which eight civil society organizations jointly called upon the European Commission to improve transparency throughout the pharmaceutical sector and take a holistic approach to safeguarding public health and the environment.

Safeguarding policy making from undue industry influence

ReAct is concerned that some on-going partnerships between the EU and the pharmaceutical industry have and will undermine goals of transparency, affordability, and public health driven priority setting.

ReAct withdrew from the EU-funded IMI project DRIVE-AB in 2017 due to problems of undue industry influence and dominance in the project. While the final DRIVE-AB report acknowledged the inherent conflict of interest issues in the project, it proceeded to propose moving significant public funding towards the industry and organizations of some of its leading co-authors.

To avoid such satiation in the future, the new Pharmaceutical Strategy should set out policies that protect decision-making from undue influence and preferences of the pharmaceutical industry, while also ensuring transparency of how decisions are made and put in place clear safeguards to limit industry influence.

The new EU Pharmaceutical Strategy aims to improve access to safe and affordable medicines and support innovation in the EU pharmaceutical sector by addressing:

  • The life cycle of medicines from Research & Development to authorization and patient access.
  • How to put scientific and technological advances into practice.
  • How to fill market gaps (e.g. new antimicrobials).
  • Lessons learnt from COVID-19 on how to better prepare for future pandemics.

Finally ReAct encourages the European Commission to urgently address the global crisis in the antibiotics development by asserting more public leadership in developing new and more appropriate models for financing and innovation, and looks forward to continue the dialogue with the European Commission on shaping this important strategy to support such efforts.

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