Europe’s interactive pharmaceutical strategy – a model to be followed

12.9.2020 9:11
Euroopan lääkestrategia

The new European Commission has begun preparing a common pharmaceutical strategy, which is expected to be published at the end of the year. The public consultation on issues to be discussed in the EU’s pharmaceutical strategy ended in September.

In implementing the pharmaceutical strategy, the aim of the Commission is to identify legislative change needs as well as use other means that support the development of the pharmaceutical sector and pharmaceutical treatments in the EU. The materials prepared by the Commission address significant challenges currently faced by medicines:

  • the COVID-19 pandemic has had significant impacts, and all involved parties seek to learn from the crisis
  • ensuring equal access to medicines and affordable prices across member states
  • improving the management of disruptions in medicine quality and availability throughout the EU
  • targeting innovation activities to genuine health challenges and developing the structures, legislation and official practices that support innovations in order to facilitate new technologies
  • improving the handling of environmental risks and the management of environmental impacts of medicines.

The Commission has set the aim to draft a comprehensive, patient-centred and forward-oriented strategy that covers the entire life cycle of a pharmaceutical product, from invention of the medicine and development of the compound to industrial-scale production, use and follow-up monitoring.

The European Commission, member states and operators at various levels have done commendable and extensive work in preparing the principles for the pharmaceutical strategy. At Tamro, our goal has been to support the Commission in discovering tangible solutions. It is our view that in order to develop, the pharmaceutical industry needs the right incentives and legislation that makes innovation possible. In addition, structures that facilitate constant interaction would support a common understanding between public authorities and pharmaceutical companies on necessary measures, whether they involve short-term programmes or long-term investments. Development measures related to the implementation of the pharmaceutical strategy must be assessed carefully. As such, measure that target the different life cycles of a pharmaceutical product should also be profitable from the perspective of companies’ operating conditions.

In Finland, the crisis of the past year has demonstrated the power of intra-industry cooperation, streamlining of activities by public authorities and national coordination efforts. To our knowledge, there have been no medicine shortages that have endangered patient safety or incidents where disruptions in drug supply would have resulted in interruptions in treatment. At Tamro, for example, we have been able to flexibly anticipate possible disruptions in availability and ensure the continuity of medicine supply with extraordinary measures. During the crisis, we implemented our contingency plans for risk mitigation and cut down our list of distributed medicines to only include critical compounds. We believe we speak for the entire pharmaceutical supply chain when we say that we have learned much over the past year. Our experiences, as well as Finland’s response to the crisis, offer valuable lessons for European collaboration. Through careful iteration and constructive discussion, we can improve our response in the next Europe-wide crisis to be better and more coherent.

The pharmaceutical strategy should be finalised by the end of the year. It remains to be seen what political courage there will be to solve the bottlenecks in the pharmaceutical sector. The European Commission’s white paper on a new health programme, EU4Health, and the increased funding allocated to the proposal, gave credibility to the work. While the final amount of funding to the healthcare sector will be determined by negotiations, if realised, the programme would increase the importance of the EU’s healthcare sector collaboration in terms of both content and finances. It is noteworthy that the healthcare sector is more closely linked with other areas of policy, programmes and instruments, a fact that can be seen as crucial to solving the challenges faced by the pharmaceutical sector.

The ambitious development of the healthcare sector currently underway in Europe also serves as a model for national efforts, in terms of both cross-sectorality and resource allocation. Europe has already committed to the long-term development of pharmaceutical services. At Tamro, we consider it important that the pharmaceutical sector is closely involved in supporting the implementation of the pharmaceutical strategy road map. Pharmaceutical services differ from other areas of social welfare and healthcare services by the fact that its production rests almost entirely on private businesses. Private operators need predictability and an equal operating environment from a business perspective in order to ensure cost-effective and high-quality services for the pharmaceutical sector – without ignoring critical safety and effectiveness.

Read more: Pharmaceutical strategy for Europe