A leading European Commission health official has told pharmaceutical companies that they need to be doing more to influence EU member states to implement European Union (EU) regulations.

Health sector-related proposals introduced by the Commission are frequently weakened by the Council and the member states, and pharmaceutical companies need to use their “lobby capacity” to convince member states of the industry’s strengths, Paola Testori Coggi, director-general of DG Health and Consumers (SANCO), told the European Business Summit in Brussels on May 15.

Health ministers often have a weak voice in government, and most of them are only looking to cut healthcare costs, she told pharmaceutical manufacturers, adding that even though the Commission will produce its greatest-ever numbers of health-related recommendations for member states this year, she does not expect things to improve.

In fact, with a new Commission they “will become worse,” she warned. The Commission is a technical body, while the Parliament and Council are political and have already blocked many Commission proposals  - and “with the next Parliament, it will only be worse,” said Dr Testori Coggi.

The European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA) and the European Generic medicines Association (EGA) jointly presented proposals to the Summit for an integrated EU industrial policy for the pharmaceutical sector.

They are calling on Europe, as priorities for action, to: - recognise that medicines are essential to improve patient outcomes and equity of access to healthcare across Europe; - support a more sustainable and predictable business environment to incentivise the pharmaceutical industry to invest in bringing better and more cost-effective treatments to patients; and - foster an environment that will make the EU an attractive global hub for pharmaceutical research and manufacturing.

EFPIA director-general Richard Bergstrom pointed out that, as well as the new medicines which it produces, the research-based pharmaceutical industry employs over 700,000 people in Europe, accounting for 17% of total business enterprise R&D employment, and that during the economic crisis it has held on to its employees more than other sectors.

EGA president Nick Haggar added that the European generics industry is investing in new research and manufacturing sites across Europe, increasing growth and jobs and substantially improving access to medicines for patients.

“We can accelerate this with a dynamic European pharmaceutical industrial policy that combines support for research and manufacturing and new sustainable market models for specialty products like biosimilar medicines,” he added.