EFPIA Response to the European Commission's Roadmap on a Green Paper on Ageing

EFPIA welcomes the European Commission’s work on a Green Paper on Ageing aiming at fostering solutions to one of Europe’s most pressing issues: demographic change. Ageing has drastic social, economic, and healthcare implications which should be tackled in a holistic way. Keeping the ageing population in good health is imperative to ensure sustainable health and social systems, economic growth and population health and wellbeing. Our healthcare systems require increased funding and deep reforms that must last well beyond COVID-19.

As Europeans grow older, they develop more chronic diseases like diabetes, cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s disease or cancer, and face a surge in comorbidities. Around 37% of people aged 65 and older have been diagnosed to have at least two chronic conditions. By 2030, the number of Europeans with diabetes is expected to rise from 60 to 66 million, while the prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease will increase from 10 to 14 million. The number of newly diagnosed cancer cases in Europe has also steeply increased from 2.1 million to 3.1 million cases between 1995 and 2018. The result is a growing burden on patients, their families, social and healthcare systems, and the economy. Chronic diseases already account for 70-80% of our healthcare spending and lead to additional hundreds of billions in informal care and non-medical costs.

To meet the impact of this demographic evolution on societies and to optimise patient outcomes, urgent reforms are needed to our health and social care systems. Members States should ensure access, uptake and adherence to the best available innovative therapies, in order to improve patients’ health outcomes while reducing long-term healthcare and societal costs. Investments in digitalisation and data management will also be needed to empower patients and ensure health systems are able to face the unprecedented challenges posed by an ageing population and the rise of chronic diseases. The European Semester and the Recovery and Resilience Plans can play a pivotal role in guiding Member States’ spending to mitigate the impact of chronic diseases.

Members States should also ensure that both primary and secondary prevention of chronic conditions is prioritised to reduce overall health and care expenses. Furthermore, our health systems are lacking the procedures and tools to enable early diagnosis of conditions like Alzheimer’s disease or cancer. Early diagnosis is especially important in light of potential new treatments for Alzheimer’s disease that are currently in development and that are targeting early stage patients. Efficient diagnostics like biomarkers and brain images are often not well established in care settings, or they are insufficiently reimbursed. Without early detection of the disease, a strengthening of infusion capacities in care settings, and good monitoring of the disease progression and treatment effectiveness, the potential of new treatments is lost.

Additionally, in the future, people with chronic conditions will need to take an active role in managing their own health. Conditions like diabetes already require active self-management, which is a stressful and demanding round-the-clock task. Adopting a patient-centric approach and fostering health literacy also implies an increased focus on primary and community care. Health systems must be redesigned by integrating care and funding across the patient pathway, reinforcing primary through tertiary care, and aligning healthcare budgets. Recent research demonstrates that less than half of EU Member States have integrated diabetes funding in place, and a smaller number provides incentives to encourage financial integration. This situation has to improve.

Finally, management of non-communicable diseases requires better measurement and comparison of outcomes data. The creation of an EU outcomes observatory could be a first but important step towards this goal.

The official response can also be found at this link