June 14. 2024. 1:18

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MEP Tiemo Wölken prioritises fair access to medicines

As rapporteur and co-rapporteur on several health-related files, MEP Tiemo Wölken has consistently prioritised fair access to medicines and transparent pricing, and with EU elections looming, he is eyeing a third mandate.

Wölken is twelfth on the German Social Democratic Party (SPD) list and, if current projections are correct, he is very likely to be re-elected for the 2024 – 2029 mandate.

One of his achievements is the agreement with the Council on the Health Technology Assessment Regulation, which Wölken considers “a significant milestone […] to ensure fair, affordable, and transparent access to medicines for all EU citizens.”

Wölken has consistently prioritised fair access to medicines and transparent pricing, “a revision of the Transparency Directive for pricing and reimbursement of medicines is long overdue.”

Critical Medicines Act

The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the vulnerability of EU’s pharmaceutical supply chains, with medicine shortages still plaguing many countries, and patients.

Wölken proposes targeted subsidies for companies meeting high workforce and environmental standards, as well as introducing guidelines in the Public Procurement Directive for the pharmaceutical industry, “based on the principle of the ‘most economically advantageous tender’ to ensure the best-value-for-money rather than the cheapest product.”

He says that consideration should be given to the security of EU supply and using diversified supply chains.

Lessons from the pandemic

On the pandemic, Wölken considers that “the lack of transparency from the Commission was especially frustrating.”

He says the Commission repeated mistakes made during the joint vaccine procurement by failing to involve the European Parliament in HERA’s establishment.

“While HERA’s creation is crucial for enhancing joint crisis prevention and response, […], its integration into the Commission’s administration as a DG renders it non-independent. Consequently, effective oversight of the EU Commission and HERA’s work is impossible.”

He also criticises the €1 billion cut to the EU4Health programme budget:

“It sends entirely the wrong message and could have concerning implications for the future of health policy in the EU. […] We still have numerous tasks ahead of us: from combating antibiotic resistance and researching medications for rare diseases to funding essential local production capacities – all of which require financial investment.”

European public research

As one of the rapporteurs of the ‘Pharmaceutical Package‘, Wölken proposed the establishment of a ‘European Medicines Facility’ as an EU agency responsible for driving health research and development projects in public health priority areas that are not adequately addressed by the private sector due to market failures, for example, new antibiotics.

However, there was no majority within the political groups.

“As S&D we still stand by this idea and will continue efforts towards a public EU infrastructure on health that can focus on the actual unmet medical needs, irrespective of the return of investment.”

The next mandate

Looking ahead, Wölken outlines his group’s priorities for the next term, placing a strong emphasis on women’s health.

“We urge the Council to promptly incorporate the right to safe and legal abortion into the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. Sexual and reproductive health are human rights.”

He also wants to see more action on mental health, especially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic,“We urge member states to allocate more resources to mental health, especially among young people.”

Tobacco use is another priority for the S&D group and Wölken advocates for revising the current framework, to address regulatory challenges posed by the emergence of novel tobacco products such as e-cigarettes, as well as online sales and cross-border issues.

Finally, the MEP highlights the need to defend public healthcare that creates quality jobs, by improving working conditions for healthcare professionals, advocating for fair wages, safety regulations and work-life balance.

“Establishing minimum wage standards across the EU“ is essential, he concludes.

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