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A healthier 2018

Our future health is, of course, vital to us all as individuals, and is also linked inextricably to Europe’s socio-economic development. A healthier society means a stronger, more productive and competitive Europe. That means considering the health implications in almost everything we do, from healthier workplaces, to healthier cities, environmental and transport options, from awareness, prevention and healthy lifestyles, to the use of data and technology as a route to better health. 

As Christmas markets and catching up with family give way to new gym memberships and New Year’s resolutions, we at EFPIA have been considering how our industry can continue to contribute to the “health in all policies” agenda, driving the health and growth of Europe in 2018.

We will continue to contribute over €75 billion in trade surpluses to Europe’s economy, driving growth and facilitating social investment. EFPIA member companies will once again invest over €33 billion in research and development in 2018 – that means new treatments and cures and also a huge boost for our academic and research community.

Never before has competition for research and development investment been so clearly global, with attractive players, such as China and others, making strides ahead recently. This globally-competitive environment means that success in a region today and tomorrow will more than ever need to be based on delivering cutting-edge science in a predictable environment, with unwavering support for the knowledge-based economy. 

Phase 2 of the Brexit negotiations will be a prominent feature of 2018. As an industry, we have underlined the importance of putting patient safety and public health at the top of that agenda. From supporting the EMA’s smooth relocation, to ensuring that the appropriate transitional arrangements are in place for regulating medicines, are critical in the short term - while developing long-term co-operation around medicines regulation and medical research will be crucial in both the medium and long-term.

For the 700,000 people across Europe that work for our industry, pharmaceutical companies have led the way in developing healthy work places and programmes. We are working with stakeholders to minimise the impact of pharmaceuticals in the environment and to be at the forefront of manufacturing processes.

Vaccinations continue to play a fundamental role in preventing disease and driving better health across Europe. I – as is the case with many of us – am increasingly concerned about the impact of anti-science voices encouraging people not to vaccinate themselves or their children. We have witnessed some devastating outbreaks of disease in Europe last year, which, tragically, were entirely preventable. Over the next 12 months, we will continue to work with the Commission and others to underline the importance of vaccination coverage.

Of course, the biggest and most direct impact our industry will have on Europe’s health is through the medicines we discover, develop and deliver to patients. We are in an exciting era of rapidly-advancing science and in 2018, we will see the continued development of some ground-breaking therapies, such as gene and cell therapies, CAR-Ts and combination treatments for cancer. 

Introducing these and other new technologies will be challenging for healthcare systems already under pressure from an ageing population and increased levels of chronic disease. That's why managing the introduction of new technologies – including pharmaceutical pricing – needs to be part of wider discussion on the sustainability of our healthcare systems. The challenges faced by our healthcare systems mean that we need to step away from the silos of the past and look to the optimisation of health and social care expenditure as a whole.

The emergence of data analytics provides an opportunity to really understand what interventions make the most difference to patients, as well as to identify, measure and eradicate waste, while increasing the efficiency of our healthcare systems. This is why, as an industry, we are investing in projects like Big Data for Better Outcomes and the European Health Data Network, to support the wider healthcare community garner the insights from healthcare data that will help us shape the future. 

Industry also has a role to play specifically on pricing, balancing access and affordability with support for innovation. We are committed to sitting round the table with stakeholders to see how we can develop more flexible, novel approaches to pricing, such as outcomes-based reimbursement models or longer-term finance deals. Access to new, innovative treatments is a shared objective for everyone involved in healthcare, as is the desire to see new solutions for conditions like diabetes, dementia and rare diseases. I hope that in 2018, we can make real progress together, for the benefit of patients.

As you return to work from a well-earned break, may I wish you and your loved ones all the best for 2018. I really look forward to working together to make it our best year yet!

Nathalie Moll

Nathalie Moll was appointed as Director General of the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations...
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