Making the most of EU health research

This article is part of “Health Care 2024,” a survey-driven series of online debates in which POLITICO explores how the European Union can best tackle health policy.

The next European Commission will be in charge of allocating a proposed €1.1 billion a year for health research from 2021 on. In this installment of Health Care 2024 — a series of symposiums asking leading experts to weigh in on the health care priorities for the next Commission — POLITICO asks: How should that money best be spent?

Address unmet needs

Jill McArdle is European Advocacy Officer at Global Health Advocates.

The added value of EU public funding cant be justified if its spent on areas of high commercial interest, where the pharma industry is already investing. Instead, we should set health research priorities according to public health priorities, focusing on unmet medical need and areas with limited market incentives to invest. Examples include poverty-related and neglected diseases such as tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS, which still kill millions of people worldwide, including in the EU.

The EUs public-private partnerships in health are dominated by private interests, making it all the more important that the next big effort must be made to work in the public interest. We need to strengthen the role of independent scientific advice and strike a real balance among stakeholders, including civil society. This is especially important if these partnerships cover sensitive topics such as the regulation of health data and the ways we pay for innovation. Also essential is better transparency, along with stricter rules on financial contributions from industry and limits on “opt outs“ from open access requirements for commercial reasons.

Ensure equitable access

Caroline Costongs is director of EuroHealthNet.

Given that this is a large pot of public money, its vital that research results contribute to well-being, with long-term and sustainable impacts felt by all Europeans. To that end, we need to make sure that equity and social fairness are addressed across health research activities.

Our society is changing quickly. Rising inequality, social polarization, demographic shifts, urbanization, perceived security threats, digitization, technological advances and the climate crisis all have potentially huge implications for public health and equity. Health authorities are desperately looking for evidence-based and effective policy responses so they can turn these challenges into positive opportunities. But health research risks lagging behind.

Theres increasing awareness that health systems alone cannot address complex health challenges, but mainstream funding tends to over-prioritize biomedical research and innovation. The risk is that insufficient attention will be given to public health, health promotion, disease prevention and research that links health and well-being to wider societal developments. The commercial determinants of health — with powerful multinationals monopolizing markets — are among the most difficult ones to address. The digital marketing to children, the depletion of environmental resources and the unethical use of (health) data are examples of priority areas that would merit research budgets.

Health research is an immense field. As we argue over who gets what, we need to make sure were all pulling in the same direction to improve health and well-being. An equity-focused, holistic approach that engages a wide range of stakeholders across society can form the common thread.

Dont forget rare diseases

Simone Boselli is public affairs director at the European Organisation for Rare Diseases.

We must not overlook rare diseases — which affect 30 million Europeans — as we discuss research priorities for the next Commission. These diseases are highly complex, progressive and severely disabling, affecting life expectancy and generating specific care needs. Due to their low prevalence, little is known about most of them. As a result, theyre poorly diagnosed and their symptoms are under-recognized in healthcare and social systems.

Rare diseases have already become a research-funding priority area, given the added value of cross-country and multidisciplinary cooperation and the latters contribution to innovation and competitiveness. But further efforts are necessary, as most rare diseases lack effective treatments. The unmet medical needs of people living with rare diseases are still vast.

Research funding should be addressed in three key areas. The first is improving diagnosis by harnessing the potential of digital technologies. The second is delivering high quality healthcare by researching the clinical efficacy and financial effectiveness of virtual healthcare such as the European Reference Networks (ERNs) to support national health systems. The third is developing treatments by funding research to understand the mechanisms underlying rare diseases and better identify therapeutic targets.

Sponsored content

Partnerships for maintaining Europes position at the forefront of medical innovation

By Casper Garos, head of public-private partnerships, innovation management, Philips

Health systems in Europe face enormous challenges. At the same time, advances in medical and digital health technology have revolutionized approaches to care and are now essential in effective care delivery. It is therefore of utmost importance that health research and innovation take a prominent place in Horizon Europe. Bridging the gap between todays health challenges and advancing health innovation will require a multi-sector Public-Private Partnership.

A cross-sector collaboration has proposed to set up a European Partnership for Health Innovation under Horizon Europe. Presenting a unique model for radical collaboration, the partnership has the potential to break down silos amongst different players and workflows, accelerating the development of people-centered health care innovations for unmet public health needs. It aims to address the Quadruple Aim — improving the patient experience of care, the health of individuals and populations, the work life of health professionals, and reducing the per capita cost of health care. Companies would get access to new innovative solutions from cross-sector collaboration, getting appropriate rewards for innovation that creates value. Similarly, payers will get better outcomes and better value and the whole ecosystem will become more effective and sustainable.

Partnerships like these help to maintain Europes position at the forefront of medical innovation. The EU should promote these and assist in the scaling up of successful pilot projects for the benefit of European cRead More – Source

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