EFPIA Statement on the State of the Union Address

Today, President von der Leyen gave her State of the Union address as Europe continues to count the devastating human and economic cost of the COVID-19 pandemic. Commenting on the speech EFPIA Director General Nathalie Moll said. “President von der Leyen touched on many critical areas. The COVID-19 crisis has underlined the importance of Europe’s health research eco-system, our resilience to health threats, the state of European health systems, collaboration on health issues and the creating drivers of economic recovery.”

EFPIA welcomes President von der Leyen's announcement of a European equivalent to BARDA in the US, supporting the bloc’s capacity and readiness to manage global health threats through research and development. Similarly, her call for strengthened crisis preparedness mechanisms, reinforcing and empowering both the European Medicines Agency and the European Centre for Disease Control to play key roles in times of health crisis, will enhance Europe’s resilience.

EFPIA also welcomes the attention given to digital transformation through the €8 billion investment in supercomputer technology and the creation of a European data cloud on the basis of GAIA-X in the context of Next Generation EU, to maximise use of industrial data. The COVID-19 crisis has shown us the vital importance of having access to real-time and comparable data on how patients and populations are affected by disease, and on the effectiveness of different public health measures and treatments. Here we are facing a huge gap, when in some cases not even mortality data can be fully compared between countries. The EU should take the lead in driving the standardisation of health data quality, collection and interoperability, investing in national but interoperable Electronic Health Records and digital health infrastructures, and accelerate the creation of a European Health Data Space with a clear governance framework for the use of data in research. The EHDEN project, set up through the Innovative Medicines Initiative, is already proving how a federated approach can enable rapid analysis of large data sets in a GDPR-compliant way, and has recently started a collaboration with EMA to study the effect of treatments against COVID-19. Europe also needs the capacity to analyse health data for risk assessment, monitoring, projections and performance assessment building on health outcomes relevant for people and patients.

The President indicated the need for a wider discussion, at the Conference on the Future of Europe, on EU health competencies. EFPIA believes that, in a closely integrated Europe we must deal with health threats and other important health issues based on close collaboration and a common purpose. More solidarity is needed to support all Member States in strengthening their health systems and public health capacities in order to achieve common preparedness as well as equal access to healthcare and comparable outcomes for patients. The EU also needs reinforced capabilities to monitor and assess national and regional healthcare demands and capacities in order to better inform the supply of essential medicines and medical equipment, and other healthcare resources. Health inequalities need to be addressed also within Member States.

The President announced that the Commission will update the industrial strategy in the first half of next year. The research-based pharmaceutical industry in Europe can play a key role in the region’s road to recovery. First of all by developing and manufacturing, at pace and scale, affordable treatments and vaccines that will ultimately provide a route out from under the shadow of the coronavirus, as well as by providing tools to build Europe’s resilience against future outbreaks. In addition, the industry continues to invest an estimated € 36,500 million in R&D in Europe every year. It directly employs some 765,000 people in Europe and according to a report released by PwC in June 2019, supports around 2.7 million jobs in the EU. The same report highlighted that the activities of pharmaceutical companies contributed over € 100 billion directly to the EU economy, with an additional € 106 billion provided through the supply chain and employee spending. Innovative pharma in Europe is also the largest contributor to Europe’s positive trade balance contributing over €91bn. In addition to the update of the Industrial Strategy, now more than ever it is crucial that all actors work together to forge a Pharmaceutical Strategy that also drives Europe’s economic recovery while building its strategic resilience.