#HealthyEU - October 2014

EFPIA concluded its #HealthyEU Conference in October 2014, an event aimed to advance the conversation on boosting health and economic growth for Europe. Delivering the keynote speech, former Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt shared an anecdote that I believe sums up not only the spirit of the event itself – but also the attitude we need to achieve greater health and growth for Europe in the future.

What was it? He told the audience about renovating his office space. A politician who believes in the saying “to change the world you have to change yourself” – Mr. Verhofstadt revamped his work place by knocking down the walls inside. The result? A more open and communicative working environment. (I should note that we’ve done the same at EFPIA, with fantastic results). This is what we need in Europe – breaking down walls 

– and I believe Wednesday’s discussion was a great step towards this end.

In addition to Mr. Verhofstadt, I was pleased to welcome a diversity of speakers to the Health Driving Growth in Europe – #HealthyEU Conference. EFPIA President and CEO Chris Viebacher provided welcoming remarks. The event also featured a high-level panel chaired by Andrew Ward, Pharmaceutical Correspondent for the Financial Times. Panelists included representatives from the OECD Health Division, the Europe Observatory on Health Systems and Policies, and the European Health Forum Gastein, among others.

A recurring theme heard from many speakers was the need for strong EU leadership at this critical juncture, with a new Parliament and Commission beginning their work. As Chris Viehbacher noted, “We need to have strong EU institutions for economic growth and stability”. Such strength requires some sort of solidarity – or, at least, cohesiveness. The programme of Jean-Claude Juncker “A new start for Europe” offers a promising start, with a renewed call for partnership between Union institutions and Member States.

From my side, I believe that Europe’s biopharmaceutical industry can play a big role in Europe’s future. Our industry invests over 30 billion Euros per year in R&D and is one of Europe’s largest exporters. The medicines we produce play a major part in improving healthcare outcomes for Europeans. And healthier Europeans mean a healthier workforce, supporting economies and individuals alike. I have no doubt as to the strong contribution we can make to the health of Europeans and to the growth of our European economy. But we need to work together – with many stakeholders, from policymakers to healthcare industry professionals, from payers to patient organisations, and more – to make it work.

To do this, we need to make some renovations. As Mr. Verhofstadt did in thisoffice, we need to knock down walls.  By breaking down silos, we will pave the way for open and productive discussion – this can lead to action. Now, as new European leaders and policymakers begin their work to improve Europe’s future, is the time to get started.

Richard Bergström