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Published on 1 December 2009

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EU shock as Health Commissioner takes control of pharma

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In a shock decision, pharmaceutical policy in the new EuropeanCommission will no longer be the responsibility of DG Enterprise andIndustry but will move to the Health and Consumer Policy directorate,DG Sanco.

Responsibilityfor the European Medicines Agency (EMEA) will be included in theportfolio of new Health Commissioner-designate John Dalli, currentlythe Minister for Social Policy in Malta. Mr Dalli will also takecontrol of biotechnology, which moves to DG Sanco from DG Environment.

DGEnterprise and Industry is set to go through significant changes underPresident Jose Manuel Barroso’s new Commission. Under the newleadership of Antonio Tajani of Italy, its name will change to DGIndustry and Entrepreneurship and it is expected to lose out in anumber of developments, including the creation of a new Commissionerfor Innovation and Research – Maire Geoghegan-Quinn, an Irish cabinetminister from 1979 to 1997 and more recently with the European Court ofAuditors in Luxembourg – and a Commissioner for Climate Action, forwhich former Danish Minister of Energy and Climate Connie Hedegaard hasbeen nominated.

The shift of pharma policy to DG Sanco has beenwelcomed by consumer advocacy groups and nongovernmental organisations(NGOs), which have long pointed out that health ministries anddepartments are responsible for pharmaceuticals in most EU memberstates.

“We are certain that this governance change puts publicinterests and the health of Europeans at the centre of vital decisionsaffecting our health,” said Monika Kosinska, secretary general of theEuropean Public Health Alliance (EPHA).

“With the responsibilityfor pharmaceutical and medical devices policies and for the EuropeanMedicines Agency too, the Health and Consumer Policy Commissioner isnow better equipped to lead a consistent and coherent approach topublic health policy and more specifically to ensure protection ofpatients and safety of medicines throughout the European Union,” sheadded.

Among other changes, Pres Barroso has nominated JoaquinAlmunia of Spain to take over as Competition Commissioner from theDutch politician Neelie Kroes, whose inquiry into the pharmaceuticalindustry included the first-ever “dawn raids” by Commissioninvestigators on company offices. Ms Kroes now becomes Commissioner forthe Digital Agenda.

Speaking in Malta after his nomination wasannounced, Mr Dalli said his priorities in his new EU role would beaccessibility to health care and the sustainability of the sector. Hispredecessor at DG Sanco, Androulla Vassilliou of Cyprus, becomesCommissioner for Education, Culture, Multiligualism and Youth.
Mr Almunia, Ms Kroes and Mr Tajani are all named as Commission Vice Presidents.

Thenew Commission is expected to start work in February and its term ofoffice will run until October 31, 2014. The approval of the EuropeanParliament is necessary before the new Commissioners can take up theirposts, and they will appear in individual hearings before parliamentarycommittees running January 11-19. Following a vote of consent byParliament, which is expected to take place on January 26, the newCommission will be formally appointed by the European Council.



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