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  • Health-care spending cuts are false economy

    Two recent elections in Europe have raised the spectre of exits from, in one case, the European Union and, in the other, the single-currency eurozone, but under very different circumstances.

    The Conservative victory in the UK has at least brought continuity and, arguably, stability (despite the small majority that the Tories command at Westminster) while most observers would be hard pushed to find anything but chaos as a result of the recent election in Greece, given its parlous fiscal situation and the way the ruling government is seeing fit to handle it.

  • Governments come and go, but health remains the big issue

    The dust is settling on a largely unforeseen election result in the UK that gives the Conservatives a slender majority and decimates former coalition partners the Liberal Democrats. UKIP received a healthy slice of the vote, but unlike the SNP which now dominates Scotland with 56 from 59 seats, they (re)acquired only one seat at Westminster.  Labour, which the pollsters had as virtually neck-and-neck with the Tories mere hours before the polling booths opened, saw its vote collapse north of the border and, as it failed to win most of the seats it had targeted elsewhere in the UK, the party trailed in a distant second.  

    Labour’s leader Ed Milliband duly fell on his sword, as did the Lib Dems’ Nick Clegg and UKIP’s Nigel Farage, who had pledged to resign if he failed to win in Thanet. Meanwhile, Conservative leader David Cameron was once again asked by the Queen to form a government and, this time, he’s been able to do so without the usual horse-trading that accompanies putting together a workable coalition.

  • Digital Strategy: Putting patients at the heart of the EU agenda

    This week saw the launch of the European Commission’s Digital Single Market Strategy, which can be summed up as highly ambitious and equally long overdue. It contains 16 initiatives which will be overseen by DG Connect and has among its goals the laying down of a level playing field across member states while getting a ball rolling again that had become stuck up a tree under the Barroso Commission. 

    A key challenge for President Jean-Claude Juncker and his team is the fact that technology is moving swiftly while legislation, by its very nature, is slow. Another issue lies in the silo mentalities of member states although, at least according to Commissioner Andrus Ansip, this may be changing. He said this week: “This time we have really remarkable input from almost every EU member state…I can hope that we can move on much faster.”

  • Affordable health care in testing times: The way forward

    With more and more researchers, front-line clinicians, pharmaceutical companies, patients’ groups and individual citizens becoming aware of the potential of personalised medicine, the question now is how to make the best use of its ability to offer the right treatment to the right patient at the right time in a way that is affordable.

    Arguments continue to rage in a world of cost/benefit analyses but the fact remains that we live in a 500 million citizen-strong EU of 28 member states with an ageing population that will inevitably become ill at some stage.

  • Is precision medicine the route to a healthy world?

    In response to a recent letter in The LancetIs precision medicine the route to a healthy world?, stakeholders of the Brussels-based European Alliance for Personalised Medicine (EAPM) feel duty- bound to state their case.

    The authors of the original letter argue: “Although precision medicine will almost certainly be used in niche applications, if widely implemented, it could be a distraction from low-cost and effective population-wide interventions and policies,” adding “we believe precision medicine is not the route to a healthy world and instead urge a renewed and increased focus on public health and prevention.”

  • The value to Europe of harnessing ‘Big Data’

    Economically, Europe has lagged behind the US in productivity for the past 20 years – and the gap is getting wider. One way to address this would be by significantly upping the use of information technology across the EU’s 28 member states, given that recent figures have suggested that Big Data could save the public sector €100 billion in ‘operational efficiency improvements’.

    Its role in improving health care – and thus the quality of life as well as actual lifespan – of a potential 500 million patients in the EU cannot be overstated and its ability to lower costs is substantial and equally significant. 

  • Personalised medicine: An unstoppable force for good

    Many stakeholders believe that personalised medicine is the way forward in a European Union with an ageing population of 500 million.

    These are all potential patients spread out across 28 member states and this innovative, ground-breaking method of treating individuals – largely based on their specific genetic make-up – is expanding quickly, impossible to halt and promises longer and better lives.  

  • Time to reboot the EU’s health programme

    This week has seen the European Commission’s health strategy come in for considerable criticism in sections of the Brussels-based press, from stakeholders in the health arena, and even from the EC’s own staff.  Some have argued that, actually, there’s no real strategy at all and, even if there is, that it’s implementation currently leaves a great deal to be desired.

    For example, some officials in the Commission’s health unit have reportedly said that legislation is being held up by slow decision-making from the EU Executive’s Vice President in charge of Better Regulation Frans Timmermans.

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