France & Germany: A New European Approach to Health Crises

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Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel recently put their heads together to come up with a health strategy that would ensure greater European access to innovative medicines and COVID-19 treatments.

 

The so-called “power couple” – German chancellor Angela Merkel and French president Emmanuel Macron –  presented a jointly developed five-point “Health Strategy” on May 18 2020, a plan which aims to increase EU sovereignty on pharmaceutical products and reduce its dependency on the import of medicines and active pharmaceutical ingredients from other countries. 

 

Firstly, the plan calls for Europe to prioritise the capacity of research and development of crucial vaccines within its borders and proposes the ambitious goal of developing a coronavirus vaccine in Europe that could be made available worldwide. Secondly, the initiative emphasizes the need for a common stock of medical products, particularly coronavirus testing kits and protective equipment. Third, the Franco-German strategy suggests that Europe should consolidate procurement policies and unify as “one voice” in communication with the pharmaceutical industry on future treatments and vaccines. Fourth, the plan recognises the lessons learned from a lack of reliable COVID-19 statistics and pushes for the establishment of EU-wide common standards on data sharing to better access and interpret health statistics. Finally, the proposal would create an EU Health Task Force responsible for redacting prevention plans against possible future epidemics.

 

The plan’s overarching goal is to ensure access to important medicines and reduce Europe’s dependency on imported pharmaceutical products. Stella Kyriakides, EU Health Commissioner, has declared an urgent need for Europe to increase drug development and production. During the COVID-19 crisis, many non-European countries restricted the export of crucial medicines needed to treat the virus, leading to drug shortages in European hospitals. 

 

Rather than continuing to rely on China for 70 per cent of its active ingredients and on India for manufacturing, Merkel and Macron’s initiative would pave the way to bring the production of pharmaceutical ingredients back to Europe, avoiding bottlenecks and drug shortage issues in the future.

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