Europe’s pharmaceutical industry has said it did not lobby for medicines and medical devices to be moved from the European Commission’s health directorate (DG Sanco) to the enterprise directorate (DG Enterprise).
On Monday, the European Public Health Alliance (EPHA) encouraged MEPs to reject the decision to move pharmaceutical policy to the Enterprise portfolio when questioning the EU Commissioners-designate this week.
The main driver of EU policies concerning pharmaceuticals and health technologies should be promoting and protecting health and patient safety, not only boosting the competitiveness of the industry, EPHA said.
“I call on all MEPs to make the reversal of this decision […] a requirement of the European Parliament’s endorsement of Mr Juncker’s College of Commissioners-designate,” said Emma Woodford, EPHA’s interim secretary general.
But Richard Bergström, the director general of the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA), denied his association had influenced Commission President-elect Jean-Claude Juncker’s decision.
During José Manuel Barroso’s second Commission term, DG Sanco took over the lead role for medicines and medical devices from the department for enterprise and industry.
“What we, from the industry, suggested was that the Commission should develop a comprehensive strategy for life sciences to be coordinated. We have not lobbied or expressed a view of how a unit should be structured,” Bergström told a transparency and public health event organised by the EU Ombudsman on Monday (29 September).
“It would be stupid of me to have a personal view on that,” Bergström told the event, which was hosted in the European Parliament on international right to know day.
“Now it has been presented by the Commission President-elect, how he wants to work, and it looks good. And that’s it,” he said.
Bergström said, “As an EU citizen, I think the design is impressive. I think this is something new, and we need something new. I think my members are willing to support it. I’m not surprised by the reactions, but having everything for pharmaceutical companies in one unit makes a lot of sense.”
British physician Ben Goldacre, the author of the best-selling book Bad Pharma, held the opposite view, saying the move away from DG Sanco was bad for health and consumers.
“I think we should be in no doubt that this is very dangerous for public health. There should be no doubt that this looks incredibly seedy. This will create a lack of trust. Doctors and patients have to feel trust in the decisions of regulators,” Goldacre said.
Goldacre also noted that British Labour MEP Glenis Willmott has accused DG Enterprise of watering down the clinical trials directive, a bill for which she was a rapporteur.
During José Manuel Barroso's second Commission term, DG Sanco, the directorate for public health, took over the lead role for medicines and medical devices from DG Enterprise, which was responsible for promoting industry, including the pharmaceutical industry. The change was made to make a clearer focus within the Commission on medicines as an essential element of health policy.
In the structure of the next Commission, under Jean-Claude Juncker, the responsibility for pharmaceutical products and medical devices has been moved back to DG Enterprise and Industry.
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