European Commission Publishes Europe's Beating Cancer Plan
On the eve of World Cancer Day which is observed each year on 4 February, the European Commission (the Commission) unveiled its Beating Cancer Plan (BCP), a key health policy initiative whose publication had been delayed by the Covid-19 crisis (see, attached Commission policy documents and press releases).
The BCP finds itself at the intersection of several policy areas, including the Farm to Fork Strategy, the European Health Data Space and the Pharmaceutical Strategy for Europe (see, Van Bael & Bellis Life Sciences News Alert of 26 November 2020). It also straddles rather uneasily European and Member State competencies. Still, the BCP will be welcomed broadly, given the health challenges posed by cancer. The Commission notes that in 2020, 2.7 million persons in the European Union were diagnosed with the disease, while 1.3 million persons lost their lives to it. The BCP should help to avoid a projected 24% increase in cancer deaths by 2035.
The BCP revolves around the 4 key areas of (i) prevention; (ii) early detection; (iii) diagnosis and treatment; and (iv) improving the quality of life of cancer patients and survivors. It will be implemented on the back of a solid budget totalling EUR 4 billion derived from various European financial sources.
In the pharmaceutical field, the BCP provides for a Council Recommendation on vaccine-preventable cancers to help address cancer risks associated with hepatitis B and human papilloma virus infections. At the same time, as announced by the Pharmaceutical Strategy, the Commission will review the system of incentives and obligations applying to medicines to boost innovation and ensure increased access to first-line medicines, vaccines, and, more broadly, innovative cancer therapies. The Pharmaceutical Strategy details a range of steps to reach these objectives in areas as diverse as clinical trials, biosimilars, repurposed medicines, Health Technology Assessment, orphan medicines and paediatric treatments. The BCP will also focus heavily on personalised medicine and on genomics.
These plans will manifest themselves in a variety of forms, including flagship projects such as the European Initiative to Understand Cancer (UNCAN.eu) and the Cancer Diagnostic and Treatment for All initiative. The BCP also provides for an EU network of national cancer centres in every Member State by 2025 and an EU atlas of cancer-related images to train diagnostic tools powered by artificial intelligence.
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