The issue of access to medicines is of crucial importance for the more than 10 million EU citizens affected by cancer. Several factors affect this issue, from regulatory standards to funding systems, and it produces big inequalities between countries.
The European Parliament passed on the 2nd of March 2017 a new report, by its own initiative, on the options for improving access to medicines. The report was introduced by MEP Soledad Cabezón Ruiz, and presented a great chance for the European Parliament to take a proactive stance on the issue of access to medicines. However, it is worth noting that this own-initiative resolution is not a legislative act, and thus does not introduce any new binding rules on the topic. Rather, it makes several calls for action aimed at different institutions, both at EU and national levels, to address the most urgent problems in the issue of access to medicines.
ECPC has been following this report since it was proposed in early 2016. The access to medicines is a crucial issue across all health sectors, but it is especially acute for cancer patients. In line with the main mission of ECPC – to fight against the unacceptable inequalities in cancer care existing today in Europe – we considered necessary to respond to the first draft of the report, focusing on those solutions and recommendations that ECPC has developed in the past years to halt the growing inequalities in cancer patients’ outcomes.
ECPC published a detailed position paper that was approved by the ECPC Board, to make sure that the position of more than 400 cancer patients’ organisation on access to medicines would be duly represented.
After ECPC presented various solutions and amendments to improve the report, it has been finally approved by the Parliament. ECPC welcomes the final resolution, as it contains nearly all the amendments proposed in our position paper, either exactly as proposed or following the idea behind them.
The resolution focuses on several of the most crucial issues for patients, such as the transparency and collaboration on pricing and reimbursement of medicines, including the review of the Transparency Directive; the harmonisation of the health technology assessment at the European level; the regulation of parallel trade to avoid shortages of medicines in some countries; and the need for a patient-centric approach and a systematic involvement of patients in all decision-making schemes.
In short, the resolution calls for transparency and traceability of research and development costs, public funding and marketing expenditure, and demands the Council and the Commission to strengthen the capacity of Member States to negotiate affordable prices of medicines.
ECPC hopes that this resolution will bring political momentum to various EU initiatives on access to medicines, and expects greater and more timely outcomes from them thanks to the Parliament’s backing of most of the patients’ needs regarding to the access to medicines and innovative therapies.