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European brief - June 2019

Read our monthly European brief to get an overview of the key EU legislative and policy developments which impact the medical profession, as well as the work being carried out by the BMA to ensure that those developments align with our members' interests.

Topics discussed in this month's briefing, include:

  • Brexit update
  • Strengthening engagement between the EMA and GPs
  • Labelling of alcoholic beverages

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Brexit update

With next steps in the Brexit saga largely dependent upon the outcome of the contest for the leadership of the Conservative Party, and the EC (European Commission) updating its contingency planning, we continue to work with EU stakeholders to ensure that they remain cognisant of the risks that Brexit poses to the wider European medical profession and its patients across the continent.

Accordingly, and ahead of Finland assuming the Presidency of the Council of the EU, BMA chair of council, Dr Chaand Nagpaul, has written to the Finnish Minister of Social Affairs and Health to reiterate our view that:
 
"the UK’s impending departure from the EU will have profound repercussions for the European medical profession and its ongoing ability to provide high quality healthcare across the continent."
 
And advise that:

"While we recognise that challenges pertaining to the integrity of the single market exist and are cognisant of the fact that 'so far, the European Union has not entered into a horizontal agreement on mutual recognition of professional qualifications with a third country', I would echo our European partners' call for the delivery of pragmatic solutions (regarding the mutual recognition of professional qualifications) which permit the ongoing provision of high quality healthcare across the continent.

In addition, and following last month's elections to the EP (European Parliament), we are beginning to meet with both returning and newly elected MEPs from across Europe to ensure that they too are fully aware of the threat posed to their constituents' health by Brexit.

Finally, and with regard to ensuring that collaborative pan-European medical research isn’t damaged by Brexit, we’ve been working with both UK and European partners to promote a petition calling for a research and innovation agreement between the EU and UK, which would include: 

  • A commitment by European countries to work together to make the European Research Area a world
    leader in science.
  • Full researcher mobility between the UK and the rest of Europe for all levels and career stages.
  • A commitment to collaboration, including UK associate membership of Horizon Europe.
  • Co-operation on regulations that support science.

A full copy of Dr Nagpaul’s letter to the Finnish Minister of Social Affairs and Health is available upon request, with further details about our extensive work on this key issue available online.

 

Strengthening engagement between the EMA and GPs

The EMA (European Medicines Agency) and the two major organisations representing general practitioners (GPs) in Europe – UEMO (European Union of General Practitioners), and the European section of WONCA (World Organization of Family Doctors) – and the major organisation representing primary care professionals in Europe, the European Forum for Primary Care (EFPC), have signed a joint statement committing to strengthening interaction between EMA and this important group of healthcare professionals.

It is intended that such cooperation will:

  • Help EMA gain a better understanding of how medicines are being used in real life and the potential
    impact of specific regulatory actions on patient care.
  • Facilitate the incorporation of views and input from GPs and family physicians into the Agency’s
    activities.
  • Raise awareness amongst GPs and family physicians of the role and activities of the EU medicines
    regulatory network.

Speaking afterwards, Dr Mary McCarthy, BMA council member, vice-president of UEMO and one of the co-signatories, stated that such cooperation:

Will facilitate the incorporation of GP views in the agency’s activities and raise awareness among European GPs of the role and activities of the European Medicines Agency.

The EMA will develop communication with the European GP organisations, which will increase knowledge of medicines uptake and use, and improve vaccination information whilst helping to deliver better medicines’ data. This will improve patient care by aiding GPs to provide the best possible service.

As the BMA is a member of UEMO, members are ideally placed to play a key role in such activity.

 

Labelling of alcoholic beverages

As feared, despite previously having threatened alcohol industry wide legislation mandating the provision of calorie information on labelling, the EC appears to have ceded to industry’s demands for self-regulation.

"Following constructive discussions with the European Commission", the spirits sector has adopted a MoU (Memorandum of Understanding) "which sets up commitments on the provision of the energy value and list of ingredients on spirits drinks and sets out a number of specific principles and rules with regards to the questions of how energy information should be provided on the label and in which manner ingredients should be listed online."

Responding to this news, the CPME (Standing Committee of European Doctors) president, Prof Dr Frank Ulrich Montgomery, stated that: "European doctors are convinced that labels of all alcohol products should include nutritional information and health warnings. Adequate labelling is one way to protect the health of the population. Consumers may not realise that many alcoholic beverages contain a lot of sugar. This fact shouldn’t be hidden somewhere online."

Despite this apparent set-back, we will continue to work with our European partners to ensure that all alcoholic beverages are included within the scope of the EU’s labelling regulations.