Urgent call for a structured industry-EU dialogue on reform

The upcoming EU pharmaceutical strategy[1] must include the critical lessons learned from COVID-19, experts agreed during a dedicated webinar on the topic today. The webinar follows the launch of the Medicines for Europe policy paper, focused on the lessons learned from the COVID-19 outbreak.

The outbreak of COVID-19 in Europe placed health systems, healthcare professionals and medicines manufacturers under extreme pressure to cope with surges in demand for patient care. Challenges arose in the form of closed border crossings between EU states, spikes in demand for Intensive Care Unit (ICU) essential medicines, integrating digital and tele medicine as part of the treatment norm, as well as challenges for patient continuity of care for those with chronic conditions. Medicines for Europe was proud to pioneer a forecasting project on ICU medicines supply, to ensure these essential medicines continued to reach hospitals and patients who needed them most. Success in this field was thanks largely to close cooperation between the industry, the European Commission and the European Medicines Agency and the network of national medicines agencies.

The outbreak of COVID-19 in Europe also sparked a renewed debate about strengthening medicines supply chains and manufacturing in Europe. The first step should be to support existing manufacturing capacity and be innovative to support its expansion. This includes a mix of smart policy making in the following key areas: investment, competitiveness, market-based incentives and a modernised regulatory framework.

The EU pharmaceutical strategy should apply the lessons learned from COVID-19 for pandemic situations and improvements to the pharmaceutical market in general. Different initiatives enabled the industry to respond to demand spikes including regulatory flexibilities agreed with authorities, ICU medicines forecasting to supply hospitals around Europe and establishing green lanes to preserve medicines logistics across borders in Europe.

Speaking at the webinar, Medicines for Europe President, Christoph Stoller said “The outbreak of COVID-19 in Europe acted as a lightning rod for change. If one positive has come from the experience, it is the value of EU partnership and coordination. We can be proud that our industry delivered on a timely supply of medicines to where they were needed most at various stages of the outbreak. But we cannot waste the opportunity to learn from this experience and strengthen EU pharma policy to support a resilient and diversified industry, so the system functions well in times of a pandemic and beyond. We will be advocating for an EU pharmaceutical strategy that prioritises equitable and sustainable access to medicines for all patients in Europe, and a structured dialogue and framework that enables industry to deliver on that vision.” 

[1] Medicines for Europe response to open consultation can be accessed here https://ec.europa.eu/info/law/better-regulation/have-your-say/initiatives/12421-Pharmaceutical-Strategy-Timely-patient-access-to-affordable-medicines/F536437