Greetings, and welcome to June already! Some of you, of course, had 1 June off – so here’s hoping you made the most of the long weekend, writes European Alliance for Personalised Medicine (EAPM) Executive Director Denis Horgan.
Before anything else, here’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 ‘bridging event’ between the current Croatia and upcoming Germany EU Presidencies and will be held online, on 30 June.
It’s entitled Maintaining public trust in the use of Digital Health for health science in a Covid and post-Covid world, so is bang on topic.
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 policy makers. And this time, we go even further into the realm of expertise, given the huge crisis that we are all facing. To get an overview of the issues that will be discussed, please see our recent academic publication entitled ‘Propelling Health Care into the Twenties’ by clicking here.
Do join us if you can!
Out in the wider world, there’s plenty of hot, hot, hot news from the US, as ever. Aside from riots, broken curfews and frightening coronavirus numbers, President Donald Trump 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, we’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 ago from the United Nations health agency, which he has accused of helping Beijing cover up the coronavirus outbreak.
Said European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and the EU’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell in a joint statement: “As the world continues to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, the main task for everyone is to save lives and contain and mitigate this pandemic.
“In 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,” they added.
And German Health Minister Jens Spahn described the US move as a “disappointing” setback for global health efforts.
According to von der Leyen and Borrell, the EU is committed to a review of the international response to the crisis, which will include the WHO’s actions.
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. 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 country’s medical device association BVMed has now published its ideas for Berlin’s six-month stint at the helm.
BVMed says “Infection 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,” and added it hopes the topic remains on the European Commission’s agenda “beyond the crisis and the duration of the German EU Council presidency”.
The association made clear it believes that It’s important for the EU to procure “sufficient resources” – not leastpersonal protective equipment and other medical devices – in order “to maintain and permanently guarantee high hygiene standards and effective protection against infection in medical facilities”.
Look out for the full presidency programme mid month.
Parliament focus on health systems
The European Parliament is still busy and some MEPs have said in a statement to von der Leyen and her Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides, that the COVID-19 crisis has shown “gaping holes” in European health care systems, not to mention “weaknesses in the EU’s capacity to act”.
The deputies have spoken out against export restrictions on medicines and protective gear between EU member states and also urge the Commission to take a look at joint procurement of therapeutics and vaccines when they become available.
They add: “If we want to maintain the valued achievements of decades of European integration and the ‘Europe of values’ ….we can no longer accept the very limited role of the EU in managing fundamental threats to the health of European citizens.”
More EU in health? Commission Vice President Margaritis Schinas is certainly strongly rumoured to favour it. Now, there’s a thought…
Cash for COVID
Meanwhile, the Berlaymont’s pledge for its Coronavirus Global Response has raised €9.8 billion up to now, and von der Leyen last week announced that the bloc would form a partnership with Global Citizen, which is a worldwide anti-poverty movement based in New York.
The plan is to bring about the campaign’s phase two, called Global Goal: Unite For Our Future.
Back in the Parliament, its environment committee has debated an own-initiative report concerning medicinesshortages, with the consensus reached that the current crisis has hardly helped matters.
Lead rapporteurNathalie Colin-Oesterlé said the situation has shown that “public health has become a geostrategic weapon that can really bring a continent to its knees”, and wants the EU to “react without any delay”.
The situation is fluid, with some MEPs planning amendments.
Around and about
News from the Netherlands is that Medical Care Minister Martin van Rijn will be resigning in early July.
“Now that the corona crisis is moving into the next phase, it is logical that my temporary ministership will also come to an end,” he wrote on Twitter.
“I will continue to work hard with all the fantastic people in the care sector to fight this crisis as well as possible,” he added.
Van Rijn had only taken over from Bruno Bruins in March after the latter resigned due to exhaustion.
In Austria, the country’s health ministry has rejected allegations it did not forward alerts through the EU’s Early Warning and Response System to local authorities in Tyrol.
This was claimed in parts of the Austrian media.
A spokesman for the ministry went on record to say that “all international information relevant for the work of the contact person management of the Tyrolean authorities” was passed on to the authorities.
“In March,” the spokesman added, “it became apparent that the coronavirus had spread strongly in many winter sports areas around the world with varying intensity,” and flagged that from 3-14 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.
In Italy, meanwhile, the deputy minister of health, Pierpaolo Sileri, has been put under police escort, according tonewspaper La Repubblica, for added protection.
This follows threats on his life connected to corruption attempts surrounding the disbursement of public funds geared towards the coronavirus outbreak. “The higher you climb, the more the wind blows,” he reportedly said.
Finally, for this update, in France the Health Minister Olivier Véran has asked his country’s National Authority for Health to work on new recommendations for the controversial anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine.
This follows a report in the Lancet concerning the drug’s effectiveness and risks, but the move has been panned byformer Health Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy. The latter claims the Lancet study “doesn’t convince me”. Or Donald Trump, by all accounts.
Catch up soon! And here is that link to register for our conference on June 30th by clicking here!