June 21. 2024. 4:38

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I want to empower patients, says Green group’s health expert


Tilly Metz, the Green/EFA group’s health expert in the European Parliament, argued that the EU needs to prioritise patients’ needs over the interests of big pharmaceutical companies, she told Euractiv in an interview.

“We believe that health and prevention of diseases are public goods to which everyone has a right. Chronic underinvestment and privatisation of the healthcare sector have put patients and professionals at risk,” says the Member of the European Parliament (MEP).

Way better places to go

The right to clean air, the interconnectedness of environmental and human health, and the promotion of health are campaign priorities for Metz, who is competing with the far right for a spot amongst one of six MEPs from Luxembourg. Health is also what she feels differentiates her from the S&D’s top candidate Marc Angel, adding “I am the only Luxembourgish candidate working on health.”

Metz stresses from the Green’s perspective health can only be improved by tackling underlying socioeconomic inequalities.

Public health infrastructure

Addressing antimicrobial resistance is another priority for the group. The MEP proposes that market failures in the research and development (R&D) of new drugs, should be solved by redirecting public funds to public health infrastructure that “considers public health [ahead] of private profit.”

She was one of the initial proponents of a proposal for the creation of a European health research and development facility, that made it into the non-legislative resolution, on lessons learned from the pandemic. However, the proposal did not pass as an amendment despite also receiving support from S&D and Left during the vote on the pharmaceutical resolution.

Now, the idea is back in the European election manifestos of the Party of European Socialists, European Greens and European Left. “A public R&D body is is essential to address the unequal access to medicines.”

The pharmaceutical package

As Greens/EFA shadow rapporteur on the ‘pharmaceutical package’ (Authorisation and supervision of medicinal products for human use and governing rules for the European Medicines Agency), Metz advocates weaker patent protections as a way to increase market competition and lower drug prices.

Metz says that the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP) has been critical of the Greens for creating stricter environmental standards, which will result in pharmaceutical companies relocating to less regulated and cheaper jurisdictions, but she argues that strategic autonomy can coexist with environmental protection: “Long-term it will be more expensive to produce essential medicines outside of the EU,” citing the Net-Zero Industry Act, as a way to invest in domestic production while meeting EU’s climate neutrality goals – “and we save on transport costs.”

A rocky relationship

Metz would support a second Ursula Von der Leyen term as European Commission President, if she keeps out the extreme right from decision-making.

“If you look at the Conference on the Future of Europe, people are satisfied by how Europe has dealt with health and want Europe to have more competence in health.”

But it won’t come without conditions. She wants a clear commitment from von der Leyen on health, who she feels has broken an initially-promising a European Health Union, by recently-announcing one billion euro cut from the EU4Health budget, “we wont succeed in our ambitions if we cut the health budget,” says Metz.

The Pfizergate scandal has further strained this already-shaky relationship. Metz was one of four Greens MEPs who filed a lawsuit against the Commission, for lack of transparency in vaccine contracts. “Von der Leyen did not put her cards on the table. Citizens need transparency.” A court decision is expected on 17 July.

Metz is disappointed by several other failed battles, including the EPP’s blocking of the Pesticides Reduction Law, a weakened Green Deal, and what she sees as the lack of independence of Commission’s Health Emergency Preparedness and Response (HERA) department in the joint procurement and stockpiling of essential medicines. She is confident that a stronger Green presence in the Parliament composition will bring about a more ambitious EU4Health programme.

Asked what keeps her going, Metz retorts “Do we want a Europe that puts patients’ needs at the forefront, or that prioritises the interests of big pharma? For me the main fight is public health outside of the logic of financial profit. I want to empower patients.”

Read more with Euractiv

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