Resilience and recovery: EFPIA statement in advance of tomorrow’s meeting of EU Health Ministers

Tomorrow (12 May 2020), EU Health Ministers will gather virtually to discuss the role the EU Pharmaceutical Strategy, Industrial Strategy and Economic Recovery Plan can play in building Europe’s resilience and driving its economic recovery.
Speaking about tomorrow’s meeting of EU Health Ministers, EFPIA Director General, Nathalie Moll said. “Now more than ever is it crucial that all actors work together to forge a Pharmaceutical Strategy linked to both the industrial strategy and recovery plan that can drive Europe’s economic recovery while building its resilience to this and future health threats.” 
She went on say. “At EFPIA, we strongly support a regular, multi-stakeholder dialogue with the EU and Member States to learn the lessons of COVID-19, building on the partnerships and new ways of working forged during the crisis. This collaborative approach can help Europe strengthen our research eco-system, increase our resilience, deliver better health outcomes for citizens and drive our economic recovery.”
The research-based pharmaceutical industry in Europe is committed to playing a key role in the region’s strategic autonomy and its 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. Resilience begins with our health research-ecosystem through supply and manufacturing to access and availability of medicines and vaccines across Europe.
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 highlights 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[1]. Innovative pharma in Europe is also the largest contributor to Europe’s positive trade balance contributing over €91bn.
Ensuring the supply of medicines to the patients who need them, remains a top priority for EFPIA and its members during the COVID-19 crisis and beyond.  The experience of the crisis has underlined that, from the perspective of the innovative medicines industry, companies have been able to increase supply to meet the needs of patients across Europe.  Issues have related to how medicines are allocated across countries due to obstacles caused by stockpiling, export bans and restrictions rather than a failure to supply the volume of treatments needed by patients.
There are a number of steps we can take together to ensure that this increased production can be allocated across Europe so that each patient gets the medicines she or he needs:
  • A preparedness plan for critical medicines and regulatory flexibility supported by timely and continued dialogue with competent EU and national authorities are central to ensuring rapid availability of therapies needed to manage COVID-19 patients.
  • The transparency of Member States’ demand will support getting the right medicine to the right hospital in the right country at the right time. For example timely (current and forward looking) epidemiological data from the ECDC will support better coordination of allocation of medicines across Member States to ensure patients get the medicines they need.
  • The transparency of the supply chain more broadly will help address challenges. Data held in national repositories, set up in the context of the EU Falsified Medicines Directive can show, at aggregate level, how and when critical treatments are delivered to countries and how quickly they are being used. If utilised, this data can be another powerful tool in helping to plan and manage the allocation of medicines to ensure patients get the treatments they need.
  • Finally, Member States solidarity remains critical to support a supply-chain system design to work across borders. In order to ensure the optimal and continued supply of medicines across Europe, we need to maintain open borders via Green Lanes; designate healthcare manufacturing and distribution staff as essential workers; continue to monitor and take proactive measures to limit stockpiling by patients and other actors in the supply chain; and maintain the guidelines on regulatory flexibilities.
While our scientists and researchers continue to work around the clock to develop new diagnostics, treatments and vaccines for use in the fight against COVID-19, we will continue to work in partnership with the patient community, healthcare partners, the EU institutions and Member States to mitigate the impact of this virus and build Europe’s resilience to future health threats and our existing health challenges.