Former PM Underscores Need For Robust EU Healthcare Sector

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Making health resilience more robust was one of the pillars of Enrico Letta’s report on the Single Market, which was presented to EU leaders during the special European Council in Brussels on April 18.

Letta, who happens to be the former Italian Prime Minister, opines the need to leverage the Single Market so as to strengthen the healthcare sector and has called for the EU to take decisive action in order to foster integration and also make sure of sustainable access when it comes to healthcare for all citizens.

Letta asks for fifth freedom so as to enhance research, innovation, along with education in the Single Market, and remarks that the healthcare sector stands out prominently.

This goes on to join the four freedoms touted as the roots of the Single Market framework, which are the free movement of people, services, goods, and capital. The former Italian PM highlights the significant role of the healthcare sector and goes on to emphasize the shortages of workers, the unstable R&D spectrum within the EU, and the requirement for a coordinated approach among the member states.

He also mentions the influence the COVID-19 pandemic had in underscoring the importance of the sector and the requirement for EU policies as well as competitiveness.

The pandemic went on to expose the urgent requirement for multilateral cooperation when in case of facing prominent health threats and proved that investing within healthcare was crucial for economic stability as well as political resilience within the member states.

Europe happens to risk squandering the hard-won lessons of the pandemic unless it goes on to embrace a more unified approach as far as healthcare is concerned, in spite of the lessons learned from the pandemic. Letta goes on to add that the execution of legislation that happened to originate from COVID-19 is going well, however, much more remains to be done in order to secure the supply chains.

Keeping this in mind, in 2023, the European Commission went ahead and presented a proposal pertaining to new pharmaceutical legislation; a text also went on to be voted on by the European Parliament, which now happens to be awaiting the next mandate for more negotiations.

It is well to be noted that, to date, there is not a real Single Market for pharmaceuticals since some marketing authorizations for medicines have been granted at the national level. The EU pharmaceutical industry happens to be growingly dependent on third countries for numerous key products, like active pharmaceutical ingredients as well as components.

The report goes on to warn that European production when it comes to active ingredients used within the pharmaceutical industry has gone on to fall from 53% in the early 2000s to almost less than 25% today.

Consequently, the Single Market must go on to prioritize boosting production capacity as well as self-sufficiency when it comes to raw materials, as well as specific types of medicines, vaccines, along with antibiotics.

In this regard, the text calls for making sure to keep building on the steps already taken by way of Pharmaceutical Strategy for Europe.

This strategy, which was adopted in 2020, looks forward to creating a future-proof regulatory framework and to go ahead and supporting industry in terms of promoting research as well as technologies that happen to reach patients while at the same time addressing market failures.

One of the main pillars is indeed supporting the competitiveness, innovation, and sustainability of the EU’s pharmaceutical industry. Letta also goes on to underscore the other health challenges EU happens to be currently experiencing, like antimicrobial resistance, shortages of medicine, demographic changes, and shortages when it comes to healthcare workers. As per Letta, taking into account these challenges only nationally happen to be a suboptimal answer.

He further adds that citizens happen to anticipate Europe dealing with the big challenges of the future of health care and also calls for overall policy measures encompassing the EU as well as national actions.