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Europarlementsleden rally round 'nieuwe hoop' van gepersonaliseerde geneeskunde

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March13_2013_20712441_DrDrawingMolecule_PersonalizedMedBioP2718276218Het groeiende belang van gepersonaliseerde geneeskunde (PM) op weg naar een gezonder Europa is in de aanloop naar de Europese verkiezingen in mei scherp in beeld gebracht.

Cross-party and pan-European MEPs are putting their weight behind PM, which by utilizing new science and technology, achieving better communication, improving patients’ access to clinical trials and building more cross-disciplinary collaboration, among other factors, aims to deliver “the right treatment to the right patient at the right time”.

De European Alliance for Personalised Medicine (EAPM) heeft onlangs haar campagne 'Vijf stappen naar een gezonder Europa' (STEPs) gelanceerd in het Brusselse Europese Parlement en de campagne zal worden voortgezet in de aanloop naar de verkiezingen.

En zelfs vóór dat lanceringsevenement hadden veel EP-leden hun steun aan PM gegeven. Dit zijn onder meer Marion Harkin, Peter Liese, voormalig Europees commissaris en nu EP-lid Danuta Huebner, Sean Kelly en Petru Luhan.

Deze worden vergezeld door Maria da Graca Carvalho, Kristiina Ojuland, Karin Kadenbach, Thomas Ulmer, Sirpa Pietikainen en Ria Oomen Ruijten.

Aanzwellende gelederen zijn Antonya Parvanova, Vittorio Prodi, Mirouslav Ouzky, Marisa Matias, Anna Rosbach, Anja Weisgerber en Sidonia Jedrzejewska.

On a general note, Peter Liese said: “I think PM is a big opportunity, a big challenge. We need to make it available for as many patients as possible; as soon as possible. Therefore we need a European regulatory environment. I very much support the idea of  the European Commission making PM a priority in the coming years as it really helps patients to be treated better.”

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He added: “We need EU-wide standards for the quality of PM, with regards to the tests but also the drugs, as it’s very important that the patients can rely on what is offered on the market.”

Mirouslav Ouzky pointed out an oft-debated problem, saying: “We have a right to seek treatment in any member state but, on a practical level, sometimes it’s very difficult because it lies close to the social and healthcare systems in each state. The big question is ‘Who will pay?’ We have different prices of medical treatment in different countries so it’s necessary to establish the tools for possible medical treatment across borders.”

'Wie betaalt', inderdaad? In een Europa waarvan velen beweren dat het momenteel niet over het geld en de middelen beschikt, lijken er mogelijke oplossingen te zijn. Ouzky voegde eraan toe dat, in deze financiële crisis en nu de gezondheidszorg zo duur is, Europa-brede samenwerkingen om duplicatie in onderzoek te verminderen, veel geld zouden besparen.

 

Karin Kadenbach voegde eraan toe: 'Bijna alle EU-landen hebben hun budgetten verlaagd, maar het is erg belangrijk dat de beste toegang, de beste technologie en de beste medicijnen beschikbaar blijven voor elke Europeaan. We moeten dus het bewustzijn vergroten van wat er beschikbaar is en hoe we enerzijds kosten kunnen besparen, maar anderzijds geen negatieve invloed hebben op de patiënten. PM zou een manier kunnen zijn om dit te doen.'

And Marisa Matias said: “In times of crisis it is even more important to finance health because we are facing even bigger struggles when it comes to access to medicines. We should guarantee that there are no cuts in these difficult times. It is also important to increase coordination between Member States.”

 

E-health and all it potentially offers could be another vital component. Said Danuta Huebner: “To really make progress in the quality of our lives we have to invest more in e-health and the access to health services. We must take the challenge of an ageing European population seriously and they can live longer and better lives only if we facilitate their access to healthcare through e-health. That’s the priority of the future European regional policy.

“But for this to happen,’ she added, ‘we also have to invest more in research in the area of health and I hope that Horizon 2020 – and the link between that and regional policy – will bring progress much faster.”

Maria da Graca Carvalho also highlighted the EU’s Horizon 2020 initiative, saying: “This will be fundamental for innovative treatments and personalised medicine. Not only because there will be funding available but also because it includes strategies of coordination, putting data together and putting research groups together to create a critical mass to drive innovation.”

Information to patients through properly trained and up-to-speed professionals is another issue.  Karin Kadenbach said: “In Europe there are big inequalities in access to health and health institutions. Part of this is through health illiteracy. The patients do not know enough but it is also the health professionals who need to be trained and informed. We have to raise awareness that there are new technologies, new medicines. It’s very important that the patients and the professionals know about these.”

Anja Weisgerber has similar views, saying: “It’s important to have a well-qualified doctor or nurse to inform the patient concerning access to good treatments. We must improve health training and education. I think we can improve education in the health sector at a European level.”

Sirpa Pietikainen calls herself “a strong supporter of PM”, because “it gives a new hope and a new quality to the patients of today and those of the future”. She added: “A combination of a better regulatory framework at the European level and better practices of reimbursement by public health sectors in the member states are two key issues that we have to tackle to really ensure that patients can afford, and have access to, personalised medicine when they need it.”

‘Access all areas’, then. But, as patients, what are we really entitled to? Kristiina Ojuland is crystal clear: “Medical aid is part of human rights in Europe and to make it more practical and accessible to our citizens I believe very strongly that we need e-health and e-medicine in broader terms. This means that every patient is an owner of his or her health data and gives concrete permission for it to be stored.

“The patient will have a personalised code so, if he or she is sick away from home in Strasbourg, or Lisbon, Paris or Budapest they can go to the local doctor and give permission to access their health data.”

Sean Kelly said: “At the end of the day, every person is unique, every person is distinctive. The more we can individualise the treatment the more relevant it will be to the patient and the better the chance of recovery.

“Europe is about equality and we have to ensure that there’s equal access to treatment for all citizens, facilitated within their own state or in another. Ultimately, we have to take care of all 500 million citizens across the EU. We cannot have discrimination – especially in matters of life and death as these issues usually are.”

When it comes to inequalities, Sidonia Jedrzejewska had this to say: “The chances to get cured and the chances to avoid illness depend very much on where you live or who you are. In eastern Europe it is much more probable that you won’t get cured of a serious illness – mortality rates are much higher – and this is something we cannot accept in modern society. But a lot can be done at the European level to enable equal access to health for everybody.”

Antonya Parvanova added: “No discrimination and no inequalities is dependent upon the level of efficiency in the use of public resources. I believe there is a concensus in Europe that we have to find a way to deal with inequality and discuss it at the highest possible level.”

And the ‘highest possible level’ means Europe’s lawmakers. Sean Kelly summed up the general feeling among many MEPs, saying: “There are huge challenges but these need to be met to enable a healthier and more prosperous community.

“That is really our aim, our target…and our responsibility as politicians.”

De auteur, Tony Mallett, is een in Brussel gevestigde freelance journalist. [e-mail beveiligd]

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