The EU Health Coalition calls on the Portuguese Presidency of the Council of the European Union to work towards the establishment of a Forum for Better Access to Health Innovation
The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed the importance of collaboration between European policymakers, Member States, and all other actors across the health community in ensuring our healthcare systems work to their optimum ability in improving health outcomes and ensuring that a similar health crisis will never impact European countries so profoundly again. While clearly demonstrating how healthy populations and economic growth are interdependent and mutually reinforcing, the current crisis has also exacerbated many of the existing, underlying shortfalls of our healthcare systems. Even when COVID-19 will no longer pose an imminent threat, Europe will need to continue ensuring that we fully leverage the latest scientific advances to inform policies on health promotion, primary, secondary and tertiary prevention, treatment and long-term management efforts towards optimal health outcomes, strengthening its infrastructure and developing a well-functioning research ecosystem, in order to position itself as a hub for innovation in health.
In the European Pillar of Social Rights, the EU recognises the right of everyone to timely access to affordable, preventive and curative care of good quality. This underlines the EU commitment to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, and more specifically SDG 3.1 calling for universal health coverage for all and at all ages by 2030, leaving no one behind, and ending preventable deaths. Despite positive developments throughout the previous decades, health inequalities still represent a crucial barrier to equitable access to care in Europe. Life expectancy at birth varies significantly between Member States: a Bulgarian citizen can expect to live almost 10 years less than a Spanish. There are also significant inequalities in access to care between but also within European countries, genders and ethnicity. The average delay between market authorisation of new medicines and patient access can vary by a factor greater than six across Europe, with patients in Northern/Western Europe accessing new products on average 100-350 days after market authorisation, and patients mainly in Southern/Eastern Europe after 600-850 days. Access to medical innovation and new digital technologies is very patchy across EU countries with reimbursement processes whether national or regional covering seldomly innovative technologies and digital solutions.
There is therefore a clear need for comprehensive initiatives that will contribute to guaranteeing more equitable access to health innovations for all European citizens and patients. These challenges require a structured dialogue. This is why the EU Health Coalition is calling for the establishment of a permanent multi-stakeholder Forum for Better Access to Health Innovation. Facilitated by the European Commission, this Forum would involve all relevant health stakeholders, from Member States and regional authorities to patients and civil society, from healthcare professionals to industry. The Forum, established to enhance progress towards equal access across the EU, should discuss all drivers and barriers to innovation, including economic, budgetary, organisational, and regulatory, and cover all aspects of innovation, from disease prevention, therapies, technologies, and supply chains, to improvements in care pathways and healthcare services.
The EU Health Coalition calls on the Portuguese Presidency to work together with the European Commission and other Member States towards the setting up of such a Forum. The High-Level Conference on Access to Medicines and Medical Devices that the Presidency is planning for 27-28 April can be a first step towards the achievement of this important goal towards equal access to innovation across the EU. The EU Health Coalition looks forward to being part of the dialogue on how to make this important initiative come to fruition. Together, we are shaping the future of healthcare.