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European Health Union – first step to greater EU solidarity in health crisis situations


11 Nov 2020


Health & Consumers

The outbreak of COVID-19 in Europe has been dramatic with tremendous loss of life. The EU’s critical role in healthcare was underlined during the crisis – but we can and must do better in future.

Medicines for Europe was engaged from the outset of the crisis to maintain the supply of critical medicines to patients. Our members worked closely with the EU institutions, including the agencies EMA and ECDC to deliver medicines in the most difficult circumstances and thousand-fold spikes in demand for ICU medicines.

Now the unexpected pressures of COVID-19 have passed, it is crucial that the EU integrates key learnings from the experience in building a stronger health union.

The European Health Union should build on the positive role the EU can play to improve healthcare delivery by member states or regions of member states. As the Commission took a leadership role in ensuring EU solidarity during the crisis (helping to maintain EU medicines factories open, to deliver medicines to patients with green lanes and other logistics support and to support solidarity by opposing hoarding), the European Health Union should give the Commission’s executive agencies the technical resources and capabilities to improve on necessary EU coordination.   For the EMA, this should include embracing digitalisation of the medicine’s agency network, which vastly improve action on drug shortages among other benefits. This kind of regulatory optimisation makes sense in times of a pandemic and beyond. The ECDC can play a stronger role in collating and sharing disease progression forecasting, enabling countries and industry to prepare for future waves and ultimately stabilise their health systems. The ECDC should be empowered to work more closely with industry and other relevant stakeholders for advanced scenario planning.

Medicines for Europe Director General Adrian van den Hoven commented “Our industry was engaged heavily in cooperation with the Commission and the agencies to avoid shortages of critical medicines during the pandemicThe European Health Union should be a targeted reform to apply the lessons learned from COVID-19. The EMA and ECDC should be given the technical capacities to support the Commission’s policy of EU solidarity in health.”

The full Medicines for Europe recommendations on ‘Lessons Learned from COVID-19’ can be accessed here.