June 21. 2024. 4:46

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What the F(-gases)!


By now we should somehow know that there’s a bit of health in every EU policy – including policies you don’t expect to have a health angle.

Last week, the European Parliament adopted its position ahead of talks with EU27 ministers on a legislative initiative that aims to phase out the so-called fluorinated gases, also known as F-gases.

F-gases have been widely used in common appliances since the early 1990s to replace ozone-depleting substances known as chlorofluorocarbons as they don’t harm the ozone layer.

It turned out though that F-gases are also among the most potent greenhouse gases (GHGs), with an even bigger effect on climate change than carbon dioxide (CO2).

According to the European Environment Agency (EEA), they currently amount to 2.5% of total EU greenhouse gas emissions after soaring about 70% between 1990 and 2014.

It doesn’t come as a surprise then that F-gases are covered by the Paris Agreement, together with CO2, methane, and nitrous oxide, and need to be drastically reduced.

F-gases are used mainly as coolants in air conditioning and in domestic, supermarket, and industrial refrigeration, which altogether represent an outstanding 90% of total emissions.

You might be now wondering what the f…-gases have to do with health.

Well, health and the environment are, of course, intrinsically linked and reducing GHG is crucial for those suffering from respiratory diseases.

But also, F-gases have medical applications in inhalation anaesthetics and metered dose inhalers (MDIs), a type of inhaler used to treat asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

To reach the targets set in the EU’s 2050 climate neutrality ambition, the EU lawmakers adopted a text to reduce the use of F-gases and look for more sustainable options.

However, these more climate-friendly alternatives are not equally easy to find for all F-gases applications and in particular for medical ones.

The socialist Portuguese MEP Sara Cerdas mentioned the issue of desflurane gases, used for certain surgeries as an anaesthetic.

“There is no safe and reliable substance this can be replaced with. They are only used in the surgical environment and have a very limited impact,” she told a parliamentary debate before the vote.

There are technologies, she added, that can be used to prevent their release into the atmosphere.

Liberal Spanish MEP Izaskun Bilbao pointed out that these technologies are already in place in the Spanish Basque region.

“We need to look at uses of F-gases that are essential and difficult to replace. We need to guarantee access for anesthesiologists when needed,” she stated.

She also mentioned MDIs as one of the uses that need to be protected to ensure the correct access to treatment for patients.

Access of patients to medicines is also the main priority for The International Pharmaceutical Aerosol Consortium (IPAC).

“We support the ambition of the EU’s goals of carbon neutrality and we welcome the recent discussion about the inclusion of MDIs in the revised F-gas Regulation”, Maureen Donahue Hardwick from the IPAC secretariat told EURACTIV.

She also recalled that to maintain undisrupted patient access to critical medicines, it is essential to have enough time to manage a safe and smooth transition to more sustainable alternatives.

To achieve this, MEPs managed to pass some amendments to the European Commission proposal that include the participation of the European Medicines Agency (EMA) in coordinating the approval process of replacing fluorinated substances in pharmaceutical products.

The set of amendments agreed upon by the MEPs will be discussed with the EU ministers as soon as they approve their position on the file.

The crime of passing the pill

This week, EURACTIV’s journalist Giedrė Peseckytė is talking with a Polish pro-abortion activist Justyna Wydrzynska who got sentenced in mid-March to eight months of community service for sharing abortion pills with another woman back in 2020.

*The interview was conducted …

Cocaine consumption. While the cocaine market continues to grow around the world, a new report by the French Observatory of Drugs and Addictive Tendencies (OFDT) found that consumption has been steadily increasing across Europe and especially in France.

Pfizer’s contracts with Commission over COVID. The negotiations that led to the European Commission brokering the controversial COVID-19 vaccine contracts with pharmaceutical giant Pfizer remain “a business secret”, the chairman of Pfizer France told French Senators during a hearing on Wednesday (29 March).

Kyriakides justifying pharma strategy delays. The EU’s pharmaceutical package was delayed so many times that the socialist group boycotted dialogue on Thursday (30 March) with EU Health Chief Stella Kyriakides at the European Parliament’s health committee (ENVI). For those who stayed Kyriakides confirmed that Commission is planning to adopt it on 26 April. “You asked for the reasons why this was delayed or postponed. […] The complexity of what we’re trying to do in this reform exactly makes it even more important that we do get the balances right in what is a very important legislative initiative,” the commissioner said.

Calling this one of the most important legislative initiatives in health in this mandate, she highlighted that the proposal has to ensure accessibility, affordability, and availability. “In this reform, there should be no winners and losers. We need to build a virtual circle between patients and industry to deliver innovation where it’s needed most,” Kyriakides told EU lawmakers. But parliamentarians were not buying it calling for more transparency behind the reasons for ongoing postponements.

Climate change and health. On Thursday (30 March), the Standing Committee of European Doctors (CPME) published a new policy on climate change and health, making key recommendations to policy-makers and the healthcare sector. CPME President Christiaan Keijzer said: “We must meet the targets of the EU climate law, including Fit for 55. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions is vital to improve health, for example by making sustainable transport and food choices”. He added that doctors should campaign for better climate protection, including in the healthcare sector.”

Medicines availability. To strengthen the development of medicines in areas of unmet medical needs EMA is introducing several new features to the PRIority Medicines (PRIME) scheme, it was announced on Tuesday (4 April). The PRIME scheme enables earlier availability of life-changing medicines for patients. By the end of 2022, 26 medicines that benefited from PRIME support had received a positive recommendation for approval in the European Union (EU).

New medicines. EMA’s human medicines committee (CHMP) recommended nine medicines for approval at its March 2023 meeting, it was announced on Friday (31 April). Recommended for authorisation are:

The committee recommended six extensions of indication for medicines that are already authorised in the EU: Breyanzi, Entresto and its duplicate Neparvis, Tenkasi, Ultomiris and Wegovy.

Happy birthday, WHO. Ahead of its 75th anniversary on 7 April, WHO called for a renewed drive for health equity. WHO Director-General Tedros Ghebreyesus said: “We continue to face vast inequities in access to health services, major gaps in the world’s defences against health emergencies, and threats from health-harming products and the climate crisis. We can only meet these global challenges with global cooperation.” WHO is urging countries to take urgent action to protect, support and expand the health workforce as a strategic priority. Investments in education, skills and decent jobs for health need to be prioritized to meet the rapidly growing demand for health and avert a projected shortage of 10 million health workers by 2030; primarily in low- and middle-income countries, in the press release sent on Monday (3 April).

PARIS

Macron wants end-of-life bill ready by summer’s end. President Emmanuel Macron wants a bill on the end of life that improves palliative care to be ready by the end of the summer after a proposal from citizens that assisted dying should be allowed. By Clara Bauer-Babef | EURACTIV.fr

Cocaine trade expanding rapidly in Europe, especially France. While the cocaine market continues to grow around the world, a new report by the French Observatory of Drugs and Addictive Tendencies (OFDT) found that consumption has been steadily increasing across Europe and especially in France. By Clara Bauer-Babef | EURACTIV France

LONDON

UK develops early warning system for future pandemics. British researchers are developing a system that could eventually be used to pinpoint emerging variants and act as an early warning system for new diseases and future pandemics. By Sofia Stuart Leeson | EURACTIV.com

THE HAGUE

Dutch outlaw 100 substances linked to drug production. To crack down on crime and improve public health, the Netherlands will ban the possession, transport and sale of more than 100 chemical materials linked to the production of hard drugs, Justice and Security Minister Dilan Yeşilgöz-Zegerius and Health, Welfare and Sports Minister Ernst Kuipers announced on Wednesday. By Benedikt Stöckl | EURACTIV.com

Survey: Mental health issues affect half of young Dutch. More than half of the young Dutch aged 16-25 are dealing with mental health issues, of which many struggle with suicidal thoughts and loneliness, a survey recently published by the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) shows. By Benedikt Stöckl | EURACTIV.com

3-5 April – Fifth Global Forum on Human Resources for Health

7 April – World Health Day

11 April – Measures to improve mental health organised by the EESC

13 April – Are the costs of inaction on obesity worth it? organised by MEP Obesity Interest

13 April – European Parliament’s COVI committee meeting

14 April – World Chagas Disease Day