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Informal Health Council

Volume 586: debated on Monday 13 October 2014

EU Health Ministers met in Milan on 22 and 23 September The UK was represented by a senior official from the Department of Health. The agenda included discussions on therapeutic innovation for patients’ benefit, the Ebola outbreak and the European Union’s response, cancer prevention and pharmaceutical policy in the commission.

The meeting began with a discussion on therapeutic innovation for the benefit of patients, led by the Italian presidency. The discussion encompassed a broad range of issues including the increasing interaction between industry, patients, prescribers and regulators, the need for greater transparency and sharing of data, and the budgetary challenges posed by high cost new medicines. The UK strongly supported the better use of regulatory flexibilities to support patient access, highlighting the introduction, in the UK, of the early access to medicines scheme, and recognised the importance of encouraging innovation within sustainable healthcare systems.

In terms of the Ebola outbreak, there was a discussion informed by presentations from the Italian presidency, the Chair of the European Parliament Public Health committee and the WHO European Regional Director. The UK recognised the importance of maximising collective resources by sharing information through the EU’s early warning system and in terms of work in-country invited international partners to join their 700 bed initiative (which involves providing 700 beds for Ebola patients in Sierra Leone).

Discussions concerning the prevention of cancer centred on tobacco control, inequalities, screening and a cross-sectoral innovative initiative. The UK stressed the importance of investing in prevention, regarding obesity, tobacco control and alcohol misuse and agreed on the importance of a cross-sectoral approach, also stressing that healthier choices should be the easiest for consumers. The need for flexibility for member states to take initiatives to promote public health was also emphasised by the UK.

A ministerial lunch meeting also took place which focus on palliative care in the context of an ageing population.