Insufficient access to essential medical products poses a serious threat to the well-being of a large section of the population in Europe. Ensuring that patients have access to essential and affordable medicines is one of the core objectives of the EU and the WHO. The Charter of Fundamental Rights recognises the right of citizens to preventative healthcare and the right to benefit from medical treatment. Unequal access to medicines is not a new phenomenon, but the recent economic crisis has only exacerbated the problem. The increasingly high cost of medicines and shrinking public health budgets jeopardise affordable access to essential medicines. Moreover, the growing need and rising costs of healthcare as a result of an ageing population will further aggravate the situation. Member States should assure that a sufficient portion of their budgets be dedicated to the health and wellbeing of their citizens.
Proper access means that medicines, even those for rare illnesses, should be made readily available and easily affordable in addition to being safe, effective, and of high quality. But various factors influence their availability, such as the selection of medicines on the market, the focus areas of pharmaceutical research, the supply systems, financing mechanisms, pricing, reimbursement and cost-containment policies of individual countries, as well as rigid patenting rules. All these factors should be properly analysed with the aim of finding ways of overcoming obstacles and reducing inequalities in access to medicines and treatments for patients. This is a priority for the S&D Group.
Everyone has a right to good healthcare, so it is vital that medicines are available in the EU to all citizens at a fair, equitable and affordable price.
The high prices of new treatments for diseases such as Hepatitis C recently prompted S&D MEPs to support member states in a call for EU-wide measures to enable patients to access affordable and innovative therapies.
In light of mounting concerns, the S&D ENVI Working Group organised a workshop bringing together experts and stakeholders from all sides to take a closer look at some of the key issues obstructing access to medicines in Europe. As a result of the discussions, we have drawn up a list of recommendations calling on the EU and its Members States to take action to tackle this problem on the various levels.