Health expert: Need for a new partnership with pharma industry under WHO

Auer is a candidate for the position of WHO Regional Director for Europe, which according to him, is faced with the danger of losing its practical relevance for the member states and their people. [EU2017EE Estonian Presidency/Flickr]

The World Health Organisation (WHO) could provide a platform for a new partnership between the public health sector and the industry, from pharma to alcohol, Clemens Martin Auer, a candidate for the post of WHO Regional Director Europe, told EURACTIV in an interview.

“We have to organise a new partnership with the pharmaceutical industry but that’s also true for the food industry, the beverage and alcohol industry. They all take advantage of the fragmentation,” he said.

According to Auer, WHO faces the danger of losing its practical relevance for the member states and their people.

“I would like to reconnect that and burst the United Nations bubble. I love bubbles; we all live in bubbles, but make the bubble more practical and reconnect it with the reality of a member state,” Auer said, adding that his practical experience in public health care all these years can bring an added value to the organisation.

Asked if he’s planning to deal with sensitive issues such as drugs’ pricing, he replied: “I think the pharmaceutical industry, and this is nothing against it, takes advantage of the fragmentation of the markets as the public health systems and the public reimbursers don’t have a boardroom.”

For Auer, the WHO can provide that platform, in which public reimbursers and the public health people can come together, team up and work together on how to deal with the pharmaceutical industry.

Focus on primary health care

Auer, who is also a special envoy for health of Austria’s federal health ministry and president of the European health forum Gastein, said the primary health care would take centre stage in the annual EU health event Gastein.

He said it was high time the EU focused on tackling in practice the root causes of health problems by investing in primary health care.

“We can’t continue doing business as usual if we are to reach the sustainable development goals,” Auer said.

“When we talk about obesity, for instance, we don’t focus on the root cause and this is wrong […] but we have to look through the nutrition and what we eat,” he said. “This is something that has to do with those who produce wrong food, so we have to talk to them,” he said, adding that doctors cannot fix the root cause.

According to Auer, public and private funding should be earmarked for primary health care.

“That’s what we have to concentrate on, we have to get out of our silos, and think a little bit more practical. Only Gastein [Forum] can stimulate people to go in that direction,” he said.

Auer backed an overall strategy when it comes to primary health care, saying that it has to be a multi-stakeholder approach, from policymakers, universities to local authorities and a new generation of healthcare professionals.

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]

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