The Patient Access Partnership (PACT) actively contributes to the discussion on access to healthcare and organised a meeting of the MEP Interest Group on Access to Healthcare on 29 June. This event was jointly chaired by MEPs Karin Kadenbach, Andrey Kovatchev, European Patients’ Forum Secretary General Nicola Bedlington and PACT Secretary General Stanimir Hasardzhiev, and provided an opportunity for all interested stakeholders to discuss the future needs of healthcare systems.

The Dutch Presidency has been focusing on the area of pharmaceuticals during their Presidency, which have led to a set of Council Conclusions entitled ‘Strengthening the balance in the pharmaceutical systems in the EU and its Member States’. These Conclusions, adopted at the EPSCO Council held on 17 June, demonstrate the growing recognition of the need to address unequal access to medicines across the EU, with an emphasis on innovation, access and sustainability.

Jointly chaired by MEPs Karin Kadenbach, Andrey Kovatchev, European Patients’ Forum Secretary General Nicola Bedlington and PACT Secretary General Stanimir Hasardzhiev, the 29 June event provided an opportunity for all interested stakeholders to be informed of and discuss the efforts of the Dutch Presidency and the content of the Council Conclusions, as well as of the views and activities of the European Parliament and Commission.

Speaking in the event, DG Santé’s Andrzej Rys stated that debate on access to medicines is taking place at national, EU and international level, addressing the proportionality of prices with health benefits, the affordability and access to effective treatment and the efficiency of pharmaceutical spending. The Commission is committed to provide the methodology for an evidence based analysis of the impact of the incentives in the current EU legislative instrument on innovation as well as on availability.

Christian Siebert (DG GROW) underlined the Commission’s interest in this topic as well as its complexity.  A triangle of interrelated concepts, i.e. sustainability, innovation and access, each with its own value and each impacting on each other make it difficult to determine the precise impact of specific actions and incentives in this area. Multi-stakeholder involvement is a must if progress is to be made.

Representing the Dutch Presidency, Marcel van Raaij  described the Council Conclusions as a political statement which serve to address the pharmaceutical system as a whole, with the aim of ‘rebalancing’ the system to make it work as intended – and this entails legislation, innovation, incentives and national policies. The Conclusions are also intended to initiate a longer-term strategic cooperation to ensure consistency and continuity, owned by all member states.

MEP Soledad Cabezon Ruiz (ES-S&D) informed the audience of the own Initiative report on improving access to medicines which is currently being drafted with a view to discussing this in Committee in early October. This will address issues related to quality, safety and innovation, as well as therapeutic value and also look at how industry sets the pricing, taking the value of the new products into account.

Speaking on behalf of the European Patients’ Forum, Nicola Bedlington referred to an EPF consensus statement [1] which makes the case for a patients and human rights based perspective in the debate on access to medicines and advocates for systems that address patients’ needs irrespective of their means, stating that ‘now is the time for shared responsibility and strong leadership to move forward in this area’.

PACT’s Secretary General Stanimir Hasardzhiev stated that ‘medicines are a product like no other as patients ‘lives depend on them. The current inequalities in access need to be addressed. Once products are registered they should be accessible to all patients’. Furthermore, he emphasised the need to take a holistic approach in addressing access to healthcare which recognises the importance of all five elements of access, as defined by PACT (availability, adequacy, accessibility, affordability, and appropriateness).

The report from the event is available here

Notes:

1. The Patient Access Partnership on Equity of Access to Quality Healthcare (PACT) was officially launched in 2014 to tackle the issue of health inequalities from the perspective of patients. This patient-led network brings together the patients, the medical community, the industry and the European policy-makers to ensure equal access to quality healthcare is a priority of the EU institutions too as Member States alone cannot tackle this problem. Besides this, a genuine involvement of all stakeholders engaged with healthcare is vital to find workable solutions to fit real-life needs. http://www.eu-patient.eu/whatwedo/patient-access-partnership/ 

2. Interest Group on Patient Access to Healthcare:  officially launched on 27 January 2015 the European Parliament Interest Group aims to tackle health inequalities and enhance proper access to high-quality healthcare for all patients. The main objective of the Group is to play a major role in providing a platform for discussion and concrete action, in cooperation with patients and the healthcare community. It will also promote synergies and knowledge-sharing regarding disease specific initiatives in the EP relating to access, and other thematic interest groups to ensure maximum effectiveness. The secretariat is being provided by the PACT, the Patient Access Stakeholder Coalition www.eupatientaccess.eu 

3. For the Council Conclusions: http://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/press/press-releases/2016/06/17-epsco-conclusions-balance-pharmaceutical-system/