Intended for healthcare professionals


The European Commission and pharmaceutical policy

BMJ 2014; 349 doi: (Published 15 September 2014) Cite this as: BMJ 2014;349:g5671
  1. Martin McKee, professor of European public health1,
  2. Paul Belcher, strategic adviser to the president and board2
  1. 1London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
  2. 2European Public Health Alliance
  1. Correspondence to: M McKee martin.mckee{at}

A victory for profits over public health?

News of the allocation by the European Commission’s president elect, Jean-Claude Juncker, of portfolios to the remaining European Commissioners has been eagerly awaited. This is an intensely political process, with the largest member states vying among themselves for the main economic roles. Would Juncker follow established precedent, giving health a low priority by allocating the portfolio to one of the countries with the smallest economies and thus, in effect, least political power in the European Union? This process had seen responsibility transfer, after European Union enlargement, from Ireland to Cyprus and then Malta. Or would he break with precedent and allocate it on the basis of merit, choosing the commissioner whose expertise and experience most closely matched the role?

This time it seemed at least possible that Juncker would choose the second course, given that the line up included a very experienced candidate, Vytenis Andriukaitis, a Lithuanian surgeon who had been active in his country’s struggle for independence and gone on to become a successful health minister. European health policy experts were delighted when Juncker chose this course; subject to approval by the European Parliament, Andriukaitis will take up his role in November 2014.

Yet very shortly afterwards …

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