#EAPM – Talk, talk, talk as politicians set out stalls for upcoming elections

| May 16, 2019

Busy, busy times for the European Alliance for Personalised Medicine (EAPM), not least as we head to Sofia to join up with the Bulgarian Alliance for Precision and Personalized Medicine, known as BAPPM, for a conference entitled ‘Breast Cancer from A to Z’, writes EAPM Executive Director Denis Horgan. 

And next month, on 20 June, the Alliance is organizing a high-level, technically minded round table on Real World Evidence and HTA, which will be structured around an initial scene-setter, followed by various case examples.

Then, in September 2019, a second round table entitled ‘Building blocks for Big Data in health care’ is timed for after the summer break once Parliament has taken its seats, and MEPs have their portfolios for the new five year term,.

This meeting will build on the discussions of the earlier, June, event and take account the new post-election political situation in the hemicycle.

Back to Bulgaria and the Sofia event will see a variety of topics covered, such as access to early diagnosis and screening, precision diagnostics, and pharmaceutical treatment, as well as the role of an interdisciplinary team in the decision-making process and treatment choice.

The conference will pull together various stakeholders in the arena of personalised medicine drawn from health-care policymakers, members of the health committee in the Bulgarian Parliament, patient groups, payers, healthcare professionals, industry, science, academic and research representatives.

Voting looms large

The real-world evidence gathering mentioned above will, of course, take place after the European elections which are gaining on us fast. So much so that a debate among many of the Spitzenkandidaten took place in mid-week.

These are the top candidates from the various political parties, each hoping to replace Jean-Claude Juncker as Commission President for the next five-year term.

Among those taking part was current European Commission vice-president Frans Timmermans, representing the S&D party, wants a minimum rate of corporation tax across the EU.

The EPP’s Manfred Weber was also there, tipped by many as the next ‘king’, he spoke about the climate, and a new deal for Africa (with its own commissioner to oversee this and a spin on external border action).

He clashed with Timmermans over austerity, with Ska Keller of the Greens stating her view that it’s better not to trade than to trade badly. 

ECR’s Jan Zahradil was also at the debate, as was the European Left’s Nico Cué, and they were joined by ALDE’s Margrethe Vestager who is not formally a Spitzenkandidat, as the Liberals have a swathe of front-runners and aren’t really playing.

Of course, none of the group mentioned above may end up as Commission chief at all, as it’s just as likely – despite the serious risk of greatly annoying the European Parliament – that trade-offs in dark rooms involving EU leaders will end up the same way as last time, when nobody really wanted Juncker but, heigh-ho, that’s who we got.

At least the Eurovision Song Contest produces a clear winner. Stay tuned, dear reader…

Meanwhile, in France, a debate took place between two top French EU election candidates when a couple of them faced off on TV, but of more interest were comments by Juncker in respect of French President Emmanuel Macron. 

The Commission President said: “It seems clear to me that the group around Macron, however it may be composed, will play more than a marginal role and will have a say (in the selection of the next Commission chief).

“But I don’t think it’s clear where he’s going.” 

Clear or not, Macron is clearly in several minds at the moment, not least that of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who despite telling newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitungthat Germany and France are “on a very similar wavelength” confessed: “Of course, we wrestle with each other. There are differences in mentality between us as well as differences in how we understand our respective roles.”

New role for cancer expert

The European Commission has chosen US-based nanomedicine researcher Mauro Ferrari to lead its science fund, the European Research Council, and he will take up the task in January.

Ferrari is well known for his work on new treatments for cancer, and is also keen to stress that cancer is not as simple as being just one disease. 

He was quoted in Politico as saying: “The first thing we need to do is to recognise that cancer is not one disease, its not 100 diseases. I think a few decades from now we will look back and laugh at our ignorance for using one word to describe a whole set of diseases.”

Well, “laugh” is probably not the right word but he’s certainly accurate with his depiction of cancer.

“The whole notion that nobody will get cancer any more is ridiculous,” Ferrari went on to say. “However, the notion that you can keep people from dying of cancer, that you can limit its impact on life, I think those are very realistic concepts.”

G7 on health

The worlds seven richest nations (known as the G7) have sent their health ministers to Paris to discuss, among other topics, access to primary care worldwide. 

Host country France is going big on the the fight against inequality in this area, focusing on improving access across the globe.

The meeting ends on Friday (17 May) and France is looking for a round-the-table pledge to develop an online platform on best practice and delivery of primary care.

Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK and the US all have their ministers present, and they are joined by representatives from from the Global Fund, the World Health Organization, Gavi, Unitaid, and Frances own development agency. Experts from civil society will also join in.

Meanwhile, the WHO, OECD, Global Fund and the World Bank are to be urged to sign a letter of commitment stating their intention to collaborate in primary care. They will also be tasked with producing a report on arrangements for the online platform.

Also being discussed in Paris are plans to eradicate TB, AIDS, and malaria, while gender inequalities are also on the agenda, in particular access to healthcare and the low level of representation of women at a high-level in the health sector. 

On this topic, the EUs Advisory Committee for Equal Opportunities for Women and Men will also contribute.

Sibiu Summit

Earlier in May an informal summit of EU heads of state and government took place in Siblu, Romania. The country, of course, currently holds the rotating presidency of the EU.

The various political groups had plenty to say about the event, so let’s start with the EPP’s President, Joseph Daul, who said: “As we mark Europe Day in Sibiu, we recommit ourselves to building a future based on the values that brought peace and prosperity to our continent and hope to our citizens. 

“When European citizens vote in the European Parliament elections…they have the opportunity to decide how to shape our common future.”

S&D Group leader Udo Bullman meanwhile, called the summit “a unique opportunity for EU leaders to send a bold signal of renewal towards European citizens”. 

“We cannot go on with business as usual when our planet is under historic threat and children live in poverty while big companies pay almost zero taxes,” he said.  

Ska Keller, president of the Greens/EFA Group in the European Parliament, said: “It is striking that in the draft version of the Sibiu declaration, “climate change” is the very last word at the very end of the document. It seems that the heads of states and governments still haven’t understood the urgency of the situation. 

“Not only are they ignoring the thousands of young people who are on the streets every week demanding climate action, they are putting all of our futures at risk. Climate protection should not be a footnote for the European Union, but it should be in the centre of all European politics. The European Union needs to step up its ambition and lead by example for an ambitious, global climate action plan.”

Keller’s colleague Philippe Lamberts added: “We need politicians that have the courage to the bring real change for Europe. We want to see a decent minimum income in all EU member states, we want a workable unemployment insurance scheme on European level and we want a fair taxation system.”

And GUE/NGL President  Gabi Zimmersaid: “We are asking the leaders of EU Member States if they have learned any lessons from the climate crisis, the Brexit referendum, the rise of the extreme right and nationalist forces and the growing lack of trust from citizens towards the EU institutions. 

“We don’t need more empty promises on climate change and social equality. And we definitely don’t need enhanced military cooperation. Instead, the leaders of EU member states must correct the trajectory of Europe.”

Not asking much, then…

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Category: A Frontpage, EU, European Alliance for Personalised Medicine, Health, Personalised medicine