European Projects

Medicines policy is a key component of public health in the European Union (EU). But challenges around equitable access to treatment, the rational use of medicines and good governance of medicines policy still exist. As part of our work in the EU, Health Action International advocates for policies that respond to these gaps, particularly in the following three areas. Our exclusive focus on policy analysis provides us with a unique perspective amongst European health stakeholders. The HAI Europe Association and its Board provides content expertise on our annual workplan. Learn more about our approach in our Recommendations for EU Governments to Improve Access & Innovation of Needed Medicines.

The price of new medicines is rising every year in the European Union, especially where a therapeutic alternative isn’t available. As a result, treatment for diseases, like cancer and hepatitis C, are becoming increasingly unaffordable for individuals and Member State healthcare systems alike.

At the same time, pharmaceutical research and development (R&D) pipelines are drying up. Few new medicines provide therapeutic added value. And increasing cross-border threats, such as antibiotic resistance, are gaining ground quickly while limited solutions are being proposed. This, combined with the looming large-scale expiration of patents on medicines, means pharmaceutical companies use unethical strategies, such as evergreening and pay-for-delay agreements, to deter generic competition and maximise their profits.

In addition to calling for greater transparency of medicine price setting in the EU, Health Action International urges the EU to negotiate lower medicine prices and use effective mechanisms that make medicines affordable, including compulsory licences. We support policies that promote generic and biosimilar competition that put an end to pharmaceutical monopolies. We also advocate for complete transparency of pharmaceutical R&D and for the use of new R&D models.

Because access to safe and affordable medicines is also influenced by international trade agreements, such as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), Health Action International pursues EU trade policies that are aligned with public health interests.

For more information on our work in this area, visit these areas of our site:

Recent drug withdrawals and incomplete public information on the true effects of medicines heighten concern about the safety of medicines in the EU. Publication bias, selective reporting of clinical trial results and distribution of marketing materials by the pharmaceutical industry lead prescribers and consumers to make treatment choices based on unbalanced information. This sparks irrational use of medicines, wasting public resources and putting patients at serious risk of adverse drug reactions.

Although the EU’s Clinical Trials Regulation, adopted in 2014, will go some way to addressing the irrational use of medicines, gaps in understanding good prescription practices and the effects of pharmaceutical marketing—particularly in new EU Member States—must also be addressed. Safety information for new medicines on the market must also be continuously collected and evaluated during the post-authorisation period. Evidence shows this is not always the case.

Health Action International is committed to ensuring that all licensed medicines have therapeutic added value, are acceptably safe, appropriately prescribed and their safety and efficacy data is made publicly accessible for informed decision on treatment. Since pharmaceutical marketing impacts the way medicines are prescribed and dispensed, we also monitor EU regulations that govern medicines information, including the prohibition of pharmaceutical advertising, and teach healthcare students and professionals about the impact of pharmaceutical marketing.

For more information on our work in this area, visit these areas of our site:

The independence and transparency of EU institutions that develop and implement medicines policy, such as the European Medicines Agency, is critical to enhancing public health and trust in the system. Compromised decisions may lead medicines with questionable efficacy and/or safety reaching the market.

Given that medicines are the most common health intervention, citizens should have the right and opportunity to participate in decisions that affect their health and well-being. One mechanism to foster transparency and cohesion between European citizens and EU institutions is the engagement of stakeholders, such as civil society, in policy discussions. Civil society needs capacity and expertise if it is to engage fully in policy debate and contribute to the overall health outcomes of policy decisions.

Health Action International calls for the highest levels of transparency, accountability and impartiality in all aspects of medicines policy. We represent the public health perspective on medicines issues by participating in formal consultations at the national, EU and global levels and through membership in high-level EU platforms. We also support the participation of independent citizen voices in policy debates.

For more information on our work in this area, visit this area of our site:

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