Greetings, and welcome to June already! Some of you, of course, had 1 June off – so hereâ€™s hoping you made the most of the long weekend, writes European Alliance for Personalised Medicine (EAPM) Executive DirectorÂ Denis Horgan.
Before anything else, hereâ€™s another quick reminder about our upcoming presidency conference, scheduled for the end of June. Registration is open, and you can get on board by clicking here.
The virtual conference is a â€˜bridging eventâ€™ between the current Croatia and upcomingÂ Germany EU Presidencies and will beÂ held online, on 30 June.
Itâ€™s entitled Maintaining public trust in theÂ use of Digital Health for health science in a Covid and post-Covid world, so is bang on topic. Â
Despite us not being able to meet face-to-face, events such as this still allow the pulling together of leading experts in the arena of personalised medicine drawn from patient groups, payers, health-care professionals plus industry, science, academic and research representatives.
A key role of any EAPM conference is to bring together experts to agree policies by consensus and take our conclusions to policyÂ makers. And this time, we go even further into the realm of expertise, given the huge crisis that we are all facing.Â To get an overview of the issues that will be discussed, please see our recent academic publication entitledÂ â€˜Propelling Health Care into the Twentiesâ€™Â by clicking here.Â
Do join us if you can!
Out in the wider world, thereâ€™s plenty of hot, hot, hot news from the US, as ever. Aside from riots, broken curfews and frightening coronavirus numbers, PresidentÂ Donald TrumpÂ appears to be making good on his threat to disconnect with the World Health Organization (WHO).
How much of this is a blame game and diversionary tactic with a massive crisis in his own backyard, an imploding economy and an election coming up, weâ€™ll leave up to you to figure out, dear reader.
But either way the Trump decision to withdraw from the WHO has come under scrutiny from EU leaders who have asked the US to reconsider.
Trump withdrew a few days agoÂ from the United Nations health agency, which heÂ has accused of helping Beijing coverÂ up the coronavirus outbreak.
SaidÂ European Commission PresidentÂ Ursula von der LeyenÂ and the EUâ€™s foreign policy chiefÂ Josep BorrellÂ in a joint statement: â€œAs the world continues to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, the main task for everyone is to save lives and contain and mitigate this pandemic.
â€œIn the face of this global threat, now is the time for enhanced co-operation and common solutions. Actions that weaken international results must be avoided. In this context, we urge the US to reconsider its announced decision,â€Â theyÂ added.
AndÂ German Health MinisterÂ Jens SpahnÂ described the US move as a â€œdisappointingâ€Â setback for global health efforts.
According to von der Leyen and Borrell,Â the EUÂ is committed to a review of the international response to theÂ crisis, which will includeÂ the WHOâ€™s actions.Â
In the meantime, they made it clear the Brussels view that the WHO needs to continue being able to lead the international response to pandemics, current and future.Â The message is that Trump is clearly not helping and that the timing could scarcely be worse.
Germany presidency and medical devices
We mentioned the upcoming Germany EU Presidency a little earlier, and the countryâ€™sÂ medical device association BVMed hasÂ nowÂ published itsÂ ideasÂ forÂ Berlinâ€™s six-month stint at the helm.
BVMed says â€œInfection prevention must become a permanent health policy priority in the future and should also be a key topic on the agenda of the German EU Council Presidency,â€Â Â and addedÂ it hopes the topic remains on theÂ European Commissionâ€™s agenda â€œbeyond the crisis and the duration of the German EU Council presidencyâ€.
The association made clear it believes that Itâ€™s important for theÂ EUÂ to procureÂ â€œsufficient resourcesâ€ – not leastpersonal protective equipment and other medical devicesÂ – in order â€œto maintain and permanently guarantee high hygiene standards and effective protection against infection in medical facilitiesâ€.Â Â
Look out for the fullÂ presidency programme mid month.
Parliament focus on health systemsÂ
The European Parliament is still busy and some MEPs have said in a statement to von der Leyen and herÂ Health CommissionerÂ Stella Kyriakides, that theÂ COVID-19 crisis has shownÂ â€œgaping holesâ€Â in European health care systems, not to mention â€œweaknesses in the EUâ€™s capacity to actâ€.Â
The deputies have spoken out againstÂ export restrictions on medicines and protective gear between EU member states and also urge the Commission toÂ take a look atÂ joint procurement of therapeutics and vaccines when they become available.
They add: â€œIf we want to maintain the valued achievements of decades of European integration and theÂ â€˜Europe of valuesâ€™Â â€¦.we can no longer accept the very limited role of the EU in managing fundamental threats to the health of European citizens.â€Â
More EU in health?Â Commission Vice PresidentÂ Margaritis SchinasÂ is certainly strongly rumoured to favour it. Now, thereâ€™s a thoughtâ€¦
Cash for COVID
Meanwhile, the Berlaymontâ€™sÂ pledge for its Coronavirus Global Response has raisedÂ â‚¬9.8 billionÂ up to now, and von der LeyenÂ last weekÂ announced that theÂ blocÂ wouldÂ form a partnershipÂ with Global Citizen,Â which is aÂ worldwide anti-poverty movementÂ based in New York.
The plan is to bring aboutÂ the campaignâ€™s phase two, calledÂ Global Goal: Unite For Our Future.Â
Back inÂ the Parliament, its environment committeeÂ hasÂ debated anÂ own-initiative report concerning medicinesshortages, withÂ the consensus reached that the current crisis has hardly helped matters.
LeadÂ rapporteurNathalie Colin-OesterlÃ©Â said theÂ situationÂ has shown thatÂ â€œpublic health has become a geostrategic weapon that can really bring a continent to its kneesâ€,Â andÂ wantsÂ the EU toÂ â€œreact without any delayâ€.
The situation is fluid, with some MEPs planning amendments.
Around and about
News fromÂ the NetherlandsÂ is thatÂ Medical Care MinisterÂ Martin van RijnÂ willÂ be resigningÂ in early July.Â
â€œNow that the corona crisis is moving into the next phase, it is logical that my temporary ministership will also come to an end,â€ he wroteÂ on Twitter.Â
â€œI will continue to work hard with all the fantastic people in the care sector to fight this crisis as well as possible,â€Â he added.
Van Rijn had onlyÂ taken over fromÂ Bruno BruinsÂ in March afterÂ the latterÂ resignedÂ due toÂ exhaustion.
InÂ Austria, the countryâ€™sÂ health ministry has rejected allegations it did not forward alerts through the EUâ€™s Early Warning and Response System to local authorities in Tyrol.
This was claimed in parts of theÂ Austrian media.Â
A spokesman for theÂ ministryÂ went on record to sayÂ thatÂ â€œall international information relevant for the work of the contact person management of the Tyrolean authoritiesâ€Â was passed on to theÂ authorities.Â
â€œIn March,â€ the spokesman added, â€œit became apparent that the coronavirus hadÂ spread strongly in many winter sports areas around the world with varying intensity,â€ and flaggedÂ thatÂ from 3-14Â March a total of 21 reports from Belgium, Germany, Denmark, France, Great Britain, Iceland, Norway and the Netherlands with concrete data and information had been sent to the Tyrolean health authorities.
InÂ Italy, meanwhile, theÂ deputy minister of health,Â Pierpaolo Sileri, has been put under police escort,Â according tonewspaperÂ La Repubblica,Â for added protection.Â
ThisÂ follows threats on his lifeÂ connectedÂ to corruption attemptsÂ surroundingÂ the disbursement of public fundsÂ geared towards the coronavirus outbreak. â€œThe higher you climb, the more the wind blows,â€Â heÂ reportedly said.
Finally, for this update, inÂ FranceÂ theÂ Health MinisterÂ Olivier VÃ©ranÂ has askedÂ his countryâ€™sÂ National Authority for Health to work on new recommendations for theÂ controversial anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine.
ThisÂ follows a report in theÂ LancetÂ concerning the drugâ€™s effectiveness and risks, but the move has been panned byformer Health MinisterÂ Philippe Douste-Blazy. The latter claimsÂ theÂ LancetÂ study â€œdoesnâ€™t convince meâ€. Or Donald Trump, by all accounts.
Catch up soon! And here is that link to register for our conference on June 30th by clickingÂ here!