New EU health chief questions plan to let drug industry communicate directly with patients

BMJ 2010; 340 doi: (Published 20 January 2010) Cite this as: BMJ 2010;340:c353
  1. Rory Watson
  1. 1Brussels

    John Dalli, a former Maltese economy and social affairs minister, will have more influence over public health policy than any of his predecessors when he takes up his post as the European Union’s health commissioner next month.

    In a move that underlines the increasing importance of health issues on the European agenda, his five year mandate, which is due to start on 1 February, will include responsibility for drafting all future pharmaceutical legislation. The previous health commissioners, Markos Kyraniou and Androulla Vassiliou, had argued unsuccessfully for this policy area to be transferred from the European Commission’s enterprise and industry directorate general, where primary importance is given to commercial considerations, to their own bailiwick.

    Now the commission’s president, José Manuel Barroso, has agreed to the transfer. A deciding factor was the Lisbon Treaty, which came into force at the beginning of December and updates the European Union’s rulebook. It includes pharmaceuticals and medical devices under the health policy heading.

    The transfer has been generally welcomed. The European consumer organisation BEUC says that it “will bring more consistency and coherence …

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