The effort to stabilise the eurozone has understandably overshadowed other EU policy issues over recent months and yesterday, European policymakers gathered in Brussels to agree the terms for the latest bail-out deal for Greece. How then has the EU’s health agenda been prioritised over this period? Despite the economic crisis, last week the European Commission announced its plans to protect Member States from tapeworm as well as confirming that the recently agreed legislation on food labelling is ‘good news for consumers’.
While most people in Brussels are heading off to their long-awaited summer holidays, it’s worth looking at the health policy issues that will await their return in early September. Last month the Commission published its proposal to fundamentally review the current framework directive on dietetic foods. As with previous proposals on food labelling and health claims, there will be robust debates on the merits and evidence as the proposals pass through the European Parliament.
The Commission is expected to publish its e-health strategy later this year and Commissioner Dalli is hoping to outline how e-health technologies such as telehealth can generate improved outcomes for patients, while contributing to the efficiency savings that healthcare systems across Europe are expected to make over the coming years.
The Commission is also looking to issue a revised proposal for the controversial clinical trials directive by early next year. Many stakeholders, such as the NHS Confederation and medical research charities, have already been calling for fundamental changes to the directive which has impacted negatively on the number of trials carried out in the UK – an issue which will be crucial in the context of the Nicholson review of innovation and the Academy of Medical Sciences’ proposals to help the NHS become an international champion of healthcare research.
As well as these Commission-led initiatives, Poland took over the EU Presidency earlier this month. Last week, health minister Ewa Kopacz presented the Presidency’s programme to the European Parliament. Much of the Presidency’s work is set to focus on looking at the burden of non-communicable diseases and seeking to promote healthy ageing. The Presidency is also planning to look at how health inequalities could be reduced across member states.
The main legislative proposal on the Council’s agenda is the proposed directive on the provision of information to patients. Considering that the presidency is planning to hold a policy debate on the proposal in December, little progress is expected in the short term on this long-running debate on whether pharmaceutical companies should be allowed to provide patients with information about prescription-only medicines.
Since the Polish Presidency’s health agenda is looking fairly light, most stakeholders in Brussels will be focusing their attention to the Commission as it starts to develop its legislative proposals over the coming months while seeking to influence the health priorities of the incoming Danish presidency.