New EFPIA President Hubertus von Baumbach on Building Back Better from COVID & a Healthier Future for Europe

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Boehringer Ingelheim’s Hubertus von Baumbach, the newly appointed president of the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA), shares the goals of his presidency and the role of the innovative European pharma industry in building a healthier future for the continent’s citizens in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

This global pandemic has underlined, perhaps like never before, the inextricable link between our health and the health of our societies and the economy. I firmly believe that the research-based pharmaceutical industry is uniquely placed to help drive all three of them

 

Last month, EFPIA’s General Assembly entrusted a new leadership team to carry forward the work of the Association. Lars Fruergaard Jørgensen (Novo Nordisk), Olivier Laureau (Servier) and I lead European research-based pharmaceutical companies. We share the view on the contribution our industry can make to patients and Europe’s health, its resilience and its economic recovery. We also share the goals of the European Commission to make Europe a world leader in medical innovation and ensure faster, more equitable access to medicines for patients across the region.

 

There is no doubt that Europe is facing some significant challenges, from an ageing population to increased prevalence of chronic disease, from climate change to realizing the potential of digitalization. As a region we continue to count the devastating human and economic cost of the COVID-19 pandemic and our thoughts are with the friends and families of the more than 1 million[1] Europeans who lost their lives to COVID-19.

 

However, science is turning the tide.

 

What seemed impossible just 16 months ago is now possible – protecting citizens around the world through safe and effective vaccines. This global pandemic has underlined, perhaps like never before, the inextricable link between our health and the health of our societies and the economy. I firmly believe that the research-based pharmaceutical industry is uniquely placed to help drive all three of them.

 

Our industry is the most R&D-intensive sector in Europe and in 2020 it invested an estimated €39 billion in R&D in Europe alone. The research-based pharma sector directly employs some 830,000 people across the region and contributes nearly €122 billion to the EU-28 trade balance, the highest of the research-based sectors by a considerable margin[2].  At the same time, with over 8,000[3] medicines in development we are driving a new wave of scientific innovation that can help transform the lives of patients across Europe.

 

COVID-19 has underlined the critical importance of a united Europe with open borders and a strong and competitive innovation ecosystem to address major health challenges. Removing trade barriers and red tape in third countries, and fair market access to international markets, enables the pharmaceutical industry to operate in a stable, transparent and predictable environment.

 

We share the ambition expressed by President von der Leyen for Europe to be a world leader in life-science innovation. Realising that ambition, truly building back better, means the EU and Member States building a world-class regulatory system, a strong and predictable IP framework and a next-generation life sciences ecosystem that can attract investment and compete in the face of intense competition from other regions. As an Industry, we have concrete proposals to increase Europe’s competitiveness and stem the tide of further research and economic activity moving away from Europe to other regions.

 

We are also committed to tackling societal challenges in partnership, including working with governments, to reduce access delays and improve the availability of medicines for patients across Europe.  Recent data from the EFPIA WAIT indicator report showed that across Europe, patients have to wait between four months and 2.5 years to get access to the same medicine[4]. In order to deliver more equitable access to medicines across Europe, there needs to be a clear picture of the access-to-medicines landscape and create an evidence-based, common understanding of the root causes of barriers and delays to access. Progress requires a broad involvement of stakeholders to for create more equitable access to innovative medicines.

 

As we work towards the goal of a future EU Health and Innovation Union, my colleagues and I look forward to engaging with the EU Institutions, Member States and other stakeholders to play our role in building a healthier future for European citizens.

 

References

[1] https://www.ecdc.europa.eu/en/geographical-distribution-2019-ncov-cases

[2] https://efpia.eu/media/602709/the-pharmaceutical-industry-in-figures-2021.pdf

[3] https://www.phrma.org/en/Advocacy/Research-Development

[4] Slide 9, https://efpia.eu/media/602652/efpia-patient-wait-indicator-final-250521.pdf


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