Small EU countries like Cyprus can achieve much more for their citizens when they have a big European family to rely on, said EU health commissioner Stella Kyriakides on Friday, in her address at a Conference in Nicosia on the healthcare system of Cyprus, organised by the Cyprus Association of Research and Development Pharmaceutical Companies (Kefea) in cooperation with the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries Associations (Efpia).
Kyriakides, in her address, at the conference entitled “A new era for healthcare in Cyprus: Embrace, Evaluate, Evolve”, referred to the importance of cooperation at EU level in tackling healthcare challenges such as the Covid-19 pandemic but also in offering quality healthcare to all of the bloc’s citizens.
Referring to the EU’s Pharmaceutical Strategy, she said that, “in a genuine European Health Union, patients should always have access to the medicines they need, regardless of where they live”.
“Their medicines should be available and affordable,” she said, adding that, at the same time, the pharmaceutical industry should be given the conditions it needs to thrive, and to remain a global leader.
“For myself, ensuring patients’ needs are covered, is paramount”, she noted.
The commissioner said that the Pharmaceutical Strategy includes over 50 actions, both legislative and non-legislative, and aims to ensure this fundamental objective, while also making sure that Europe is consolidated as a place of innovation, with a vibrant pharmaceutical industry.
To achieve this, she added, “we are working with our industrial partners to enhance the security of supply and address structural issues around shortages of medicines, and build a flexible regulatory framework that will allow to innovate and produce medicines in Europe.”
Ultimately, she said, the Pharmaceutical Strategy is both for patients and industry. “We are putting the patient at the centre of our pharmaceutical policy, every step of the way, while ensuring the EU pharmaceutical industry remains competitive and innovative,” she added.
The Commissioner also said that, Europe “can, and should be” a leader in research, development and innovation but that, for innovation to have any value, it has to reach the patient.
A good example of this is the area of rare diseases, where no treatments are available for 95% of these diseases, she said, adding that, ‘orphan medicines’, once authorised, are not accessible to patients equally in all Member States.
“That is why, as part of the EU Pharmaceutical Strategy, we will review the current rules to promote innovation especially where it is needed most, and to address unmet needs for patients across the EU,” she said.
This vision, she added, “is central to our European Health Union, which represents our key response to the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The Commissioner also said that, building a European Health Union is not only about being ready to respond to crises but it is also about building the sustainable healthcare systems of tomorrow, so they deliver better care for EU patients.
She noted that success in efforts, from the upcoming reform of the pharmaceutical rules to the EU Cancer Plan, to digital health and all the European Health Union flagships, depends on collaboration, trust and vision.
The Commissioner said that a strong European Health Union was also a necessary step for a strong Cypriot Health System, while small EU countries like Cyprus “can achieve much more for their citizens when they have a big European family to rely on.”
In his own video message, Cyprus’ Health Minister, Michalis Hadjipantela, said that, the promotion of reforms was “a one-way street” and that his ministry takes into account the positions, but also constructive criticism, of all agencies with the aim of improving functionality and efficiency of healthcare structures for the benefit of society. He also referred to the establishment, in the near future, of the National Pharmaceutical Authority, which, he said, will contribute to the modernisation of the healthcare delivery system in Cyprus.
Meanwhile, Kyriakos Mikellis, chairman Kefea, said in his address, that the conference was “extremely important”, as it takes place at a turning point for the healthcare sector, both in Cyprus and the European Union. He said that the commission’s effort to revise the EU’s pharmaceutical legislation “is key for the future of the healthcare sector and access to medicines, not only in Cyprus, but Europe at large”.
He also referred the implementation of Cyprus’ General health system three years ago, noting that, the new system “has significantly improved the supply and management of pharmaceuticals in the primary healthcare” but that there are still many outstanding issues regarding the second phase of the system and the introduction of innovative medicines and treatments.
Mikellis expressed the belief that solutions, which will lead to a sustainable health care system and at the same time ensure high quality services and access to innovative medicines, can only be reached through an open dialogue, respect and inclusion of all stakeholders in the processes.