EU needs Israeli medicines: time to trade freely

By Marina Yannakoudakis, October 19, 2012
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Marina Yannakoudakis

Marina Yannakoudakis

Why is it that a trade agreement that will facilitate the import of high-quality and affordable medicines into Europe is such a political hot potato? Because the trade agreement is with Israel.

The politicisation of a technical agreement has already caused delays in the provision of life-saving drugs to European patients at lower prices. When the so-called “Protocol on Conformity Assessment and Acceptance of Industrial Products’’, or ACAA, is voted on by all members of the European Parliament next week, it will have taken over two years of negotiations to finalise an already established joint commitment with Israel.

EU member countries are facing rising healthcare costs. Factors such as the over-prescription of drugs and an ageing population make it essential to seek savings. Israel, despite its small size, is at the forefront of major medical innovations.

Israel’s Teva Pharmaceuticals makes Copaxone, the world’s top selling treatment for multiple sclerosis. The company has also produced a generic version of Lipitor, the popular blood pressure medication and the world’s best-selling drug. By using Teva’s generic drugs, the costs to healthcare systems for blood pressure medication would be reduced by 92 per cent. Teva also produces a generic version of Actos, which is used to improve blood sugar control in adults with type 2 diabetes. According to industry estimates, Europeans save nearly 25 billion euros annually by using generics.

If the ACAA is passed, European pharmaceutical companies will be able to purchase active pharmaceutical ingredients and medicines from Israeli companies with no need for additional testing in Europe. This will both reduce the costs of importing medicines as well as lowering manufacturing costs for European drugs companies.

Forty per cent of Israel’s imports come from the EU. Removing technical barriers to trade would make it easier for European drug companies to sell to the Israeli market. Europe’s research-based pharmaceutical industry employs 660,000 people across the continent.

The EU is, in essence, a trade bloc. Members of the European Parliament should be supporting free trade, especially in an industry which is vital to the recovery of the EU. Political posturing should not get in the way.

Marina Yannakoudakis is Conservative MEP for London and her party’s spokesman on health in the European Parliament

Last updated: 11:45am, October 19 2012