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EC: medicines to remain part of health directorate

Juncker U-turns on decision to move pharma oversight to enterprise and industry
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New president of the European Commission (EC) Jean-Claude Juncker has backtracked on a much-criticised decision to move control of pharmaceuticals and medical devices to the enterprise and industry directorate.

Instead medicines will remain under control of the Directorate General for Health and Consumers, whose Commissioner is now Vytenis Andriukaitis after the recent reshuffle of EC ministers.

“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,” said Juncker in a speech before the European Parliament to announce his presidency.

“The relevant policy will be developed jointly by Vytenis Andriukaitis and by Elżbieta Bieńkowska [Directorate-General for the Internal Market and Industry], who showed her incredible talents in her hearing.”

The announcement was welcomed by several healthcare organisations who had strongly criticised the original decision to move the control of medicines to the industry directorate as a retrograde step that would damage the EC's ability to handle major health crises and to keep patients at the heart of policy decisions.

Twenty-six major healthcare bodies in Europe, including the European Public Health Alliance and the UK's Royal College of Nurses, issued a joint press release welcoming the U-turn.

“With this new perspective, Mr Juncker has demonstrated that medicines are not an ordinary internal market good and that pharmaceutical policy is crucial to the sustainability of health systems; not solely an instrument for promoting economic growth,” said the partners.

“Dr Vytenis Andriukaitis will now have the tools to fulfil his mandate to harmonise pharmaceutical governance within the EU and facilitate emergency preparedness; the very reasons that in 2009 led the European Commission to move responsibility for medicines and medical devices into the hands of the health Commissioner.”

Health Action International (HAI) Europe - a network working to improve access to essential medicines - also hailed the decision, although there were still concerns about the possibility of an expanded role for the Directorate-General Enterprise and Industry in the development of medicines policy.

HAI Europe said it “calls upon the new EU health commissioner, Vytenis Andriukaitis, to use all available means to ensure that public health is not compromised by private sector interests”.

Article by
Thomas Meek

24th October 2014

From: Regulatory, Healthcare

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