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Health in the new European Commission

Health Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis, © EHFG 2014, FlickR

Together with the wider health community, EPF welcomed President Juncker’s decision on 22 October to keep the pharmaceutical portfolio in the Directorate-General for Health and Consumers (DG SANCO). His initial intention was to give back  this responsibility to  DG for Enterprise and Industry (DG ENTR) . EPF expressed our worries regarding this move together with other health stakeholders in a joint letter. We remain concerned however that medical devices will indeed be transferred to the Enterprise Directorate.

Health is one of the highest priorities of European citizens and we are delighted that Mr Juncker heard the civil society’s call, at least for medicines (and de facto the European Medicines Agency – EMA) and pharmaceutical products. “For patients, the overall priority is that these products are safe and of high quality in the EU. They provide a major contribution to life expectancy and quality of life of patients as well as the quality and sustainability of health systems,” explained EPF President Anders Olauson.

Regarding medical devices’ dossier to be transferred to DG ENTR, EPF highlights that no compromises can be made on patient safety and quality. “The needs of patients should always come first. This is particularly vital at a time when European health systems are facing many challenges. Having a coherent EU public health policy is only possible if driven by the needs of patients,” explained Anders Olauson.

We believe that medical devices’ policies must have a firm grounding in public health, quality of care and patient safety. DG ENTR plays nonetheless a legitimate role in promoting sound European industrial policy and we hope that the two Directorate-Generals will work closely together on health-related issues. Cooperation  is needed to take more effective action towards  closing the gap on health inequalities so all patients across Europe have access to high-quality, affordable treatment. 

A former doctor as Health Commissioner

Vytenis Andriukaitis, a former Lithuanian health minister and doctor, left MEPs happy to confirm him as the new EU commissioner for health and Food Safety at his confirmation hearing on 30 September. His priorities for the next five years, as he intimated at  the European Health Forum Gastein will focus on the pooling of member states' efforts to invest in health, the promotion of cross-border healthcare, and the implementation of the tobacco legislation. He added that in times of austerity spending in health is not only expenditure but an investment in human capital. He finally s summed up as his main concerns as being ‘promotion, prevention, protection’, with a focus on prevention to reduce costs and keep citizens in good health. (Full speech available here, PDF).

Read here and here the joint statements made by the health civil society to President Juncker.

Contact: Cynthia Bonsignore, EPF Communication Officer, cynthia.bonsignore@eu-patient.eu