Juncker u-turn puts pharma in health Commissioner’s portfolio

Africa wants to start producing its own medicine to fight counterfeit medicine. [Walweed Alzuhair/Flickr]

Pharmaceutical drugs, and medical technology, will remain under the department of health (DG Sanco) in the next Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, the President-elect, confirmed on Wednesday (22 October).

The responsibility for the policy on pharmaceuticals was initially put under the supervision of El?bieta Bie?kowska, the Polish Commissioner-designate responsible for the EU’s Single Market, Industry and Enterprises, as well as SMEs.

This prompted harsh criticism from the EU health community, and some members of the European Parliament, in recent months, with, for example, the European Public Health Alliance (EPHA) stating that the Lithuanian Health Commissioner-candidate Vytenis Andriukaitis was deprived of a fundamental tool to protect public health.

Speaking in front of the Parliament in Strasbourg on the Commission’s political guidelines, Juncker said he had changed his mind when it comes to health.

“Responsibility for medicines and pharmaceutical products will stay with the Directorate-General for Health because I agree with you that medicines are not goods like any other,” he said, adding that Andriukaitis and Bie?kowska will develop the relevant policy jointly.

The European Consumer Organisation (BEUC) said in a statement that Juncker’s decision is a clear signal to consumers that their health comes before economic interests.

“Our efforts have paid off, this is a true consumer victory,” the consumer organisation said.

Last month, the pharmaceutical industry denied that it had lobbied to get Juncker to move the industry out of the health dossier.

“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,” Richard Bergström, the director general of the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA), stated.

Katrín Fjeldsted, president of the Standing Committee of European Doctors (CPME), commented:

"European doctors are delighted that Jean-Claude Juncker reconsidered his decision and for this we are extremely thankful to him and the European Parliament. Medicinal products are not a simple market commodity. Policy-making in this area is not about making money, but about health."

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.  


  • 1 Nov.: New Commission to formerly take office

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