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Euro pharma 'needs strong science base'

06-Oct-2004

Franz Humer, president of the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations and chief executive of Roche, has issued a plea for a concerted effort at improving Europe's science base at the European Parliament.

Addressing the Kangaroo Group, which promotes the single market, Dr Humer highlighted that the research-based pharmaceutical industry operating in Europe can make a major contribution towards achieving the 'Lisbon' strategy (of turning Europe into the most dynamic and competitive knowledge-based economy) and 'Barcelona' objective (of investing 3 per cent of the European Union's Gross Domestic Product in R&D).

"The pharmaceutical industry alone accounts for 15 per cent of the whole EU business R&D expenditure. It remains one of the most innovative and successful industries in the EU, a key asset to the health and wealth of Europe, " he said.

"However, it faces the challenge of declining competitiveness as compared to the USA, where the environment is more attractive for R&D investment and more supportive of pharmaceutical innovation."

For the EFPIA president, the environment for the European-based drug industry still needs major improvements.

EU citizens should have faster access to new medicines, as there are still delays up to two years before new approved drug become available on some national markets, and developers of innovative medicines should be rewarded, instead of being the prime target of cost-containment policies.

"Innovation in Europe is still perceived as a cost - and not as an opportunity for growth and better health," said Humer.

More price competition, particularly for non-reimbursed medicines, should lead to more competition in the marketplace. In the pharmaceutical sector, Europe does not function as a single market, he said, attacking the parallel trade in medicines which he clamed 'strikes at industry's ability to fund new research and does not provide benefits for patients or social security systems'.

Against this background, Dr Humer welcomed the promising start of the new Barroso Commission, recognising the central importance of economic competitiveness for Europe.

In November, 19 of the European Commission's 25 members will be replaced with new faces. The new Commission is predicted to be much more attuned to the needs of the pharmaceutical and chemical industries.

Under the leadership of Jose Manuel Barroso, the Commission is expected to focus on reform and the implementation of the Lisbon agenda, but while many of the new commissioners are pro-business, they do come from varying political parties, which could have an impact on the effectiveness of the group, and national differences will also remain an issue.

One issue affecting the pharmachem industry that is expected to receive the attention of the commissioners is the Registration, Evaluation and Authorization of CHemicals (REACH) legislation, which sets out new testing requirements for chemicals.

"Our research-based pharmaceutical industry represents a strategic sector for achieving the Lisbon agenda. If we want pharmaceutical research to continue in Europe, Europe must strengthen its science base. We must reverse current negative trends, reinvigorate our competitiveness, fight the 'brain drain' and stay in the innovation race, " Dr Humer concluded.

In a final appeal to his audience, Dr Humer said that the Europe should 'just implement Lisbon'.

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