Healthcare and medical products
Health policies remain within national jurisdiction but the European United Left/Nordic Green Left Group has been active in improvements that have been made in health care policies at the EU level.
Our MEPs have been active on issues such the right to healthcare regardless of the person's economic and social situation and the responsibility to ensure that this right is universally enjoyed. Because austerity is leading to women's access to healthcare being greatly diminished, the group has waged a constant battle against the inequality between men and women in access to healthcare, the need to ensure reproductive health and rights and to make sure that women who are victims of violence are protected. Health in the developing world and the effects of EU chemicals policy and GMOs on health are also a major concern.
Our constant goal is also to support patients' rights to high-quality, accessible and affordable healthcare and medicines, at local and regional level. We do not oppose patient mobility: to seek and obtain healthcare is an undeniable right for all and people should have a free choice.
In the field of medicines, the group was at the forefront in the battle against falsified medicines, the provision of information to the general public on medicinal products, drug safety, drug prices, and tobacco laws to ensure that the health of people, particularly young people, is put before tobacco industry profits.
AUSTERITY & HEALTHCARE
The group considers that everybody has the right to healthcare regardless of their economic and social situation and the responsibility to ensure that that right is universally enjoyed is a public sector responsibility. It pointed out that austerity measures were leading to women's access to healthcare being greatly diminished. "We must fight against the inequality between men and women in access to healthcare and ensure reproductive health."
On World AIDS Day each year, GUE/NGL reiterates its call for serious investment in the health sector and for the Commission to play its role in ensuring that member states fulfil their commitments. It has expressed its that despite all the work done in the field of Aids, there were approximately 25,000 new cases diagnosed in the EU and EEA countries and some 100,000 in neighbouring countries in 2010. We consider that there is a great need for serious investment in the health sector, which is lacking due to the current economic and social crisis. We must also eliminate discrimination, ensure equal treatment and iron out the inequalities facing people seeking care and treatment.
With diabetes affecting over 30 million people in Europe the illness has reached epidemic proportions. The GUE/NGL group supported the Parliamentary resolution and called for a European strategy to combat diabetes.
April 2010 saw an important report on falsified medicines being adopted at committee level. The report by GUE/NGL Marisa Matias focused on protecting patients from the dangers of counterfeit or falsified medicines. February 2011 saw the adoption of this report in plenary. In addition to its original aims, the report also covered the sales of medicines over the Internet, a significant step as governments and the European Commission initially wanted to exclude this from the directive. This new law will impact not only Europe but also other regions of the world because the control of medicines will be carried out not only when entering the EU but also when exiting thus contributing to the fight against the export of counterfeit medicines to poorer countries.
PATIENT INFORMATION ON MEDICINAL PRODUCTS
The GUE/NGL welcomed a vote in favour of the provision of information to the general public on medicinal products, despite opposition from right-wing groups which sought to put the interests of pharmaceutical companies before patients.
GUE/NGL denounced the voting through of new rules on cross-border health treatment saying that this relegated healthcare to the status of a market product and will result in the promotion of health tourism. The group considers that healthcare is not a commercial, tradable good; it's a basic need for everyone. Patients - especially if they are seriously ill - need care in their region, close to their family and a doctor who speaks their language. The Group reiterated its demand for affordable and easily accessible good quality healthcare for all.
A legislative report on drug safety was welcomed by the group because due to amendments agreed by the EP as a whole, it would lead to safer medicines, better protection for patients and greater coordination and cooperation. The group stressed that these amendments were necessary in order to prevent a repetition of scandals such as the one surrounding the Mediator drug. However, even perfect legislation will be worthless if not properly implemented, and if compliance is not properly enforced. The economic crisis and related cuts are also affecting the health sector, including the budgets of national and European medicines agencies. It is therefore important to ensure that the competent bodies at both national and European levels receive adequate support and trained staff to fulfil all of the important tasks that have given them under this new legislation.
PRICES OF MEDICINAL PRODUCTS
Every month, citizens spend a substantial portion of their salaries or pensions on medicines, and they question the price they pay, above all in times of austerity. It is therefore very important that the process and rules for price setting are clear and transparent. But we see today a proposal that, – despite improvements in the report–, is at odds with the interest of European citizens, which instead of protecting them, as would be hoped for, actually impedes member states from re-evaluating the safety, efficiency, and quality of medicines. Furthermore, by setting deadlines for each member state to decide on the price and reimbursement system for each drug, this directive ends up being a proposal for a dictatorship by the pharmaceutical industry, because, if a country fails to meet a deadline, it will have to pay the industry, up to the point that it will be possible for the manufacturer to unilaterally impose its price on the Member States if deadlines are not met.
The group proposed a set of amendments in order to return power to the member states and prevent penalties that would affect public health services, already weakened in times of austerity and minimum budgets, and also to guarantee the interests of the people.