EU presidency: Belgian PM urges stronger European cooperation on medicines

Belgian prime minister Alexander De Croo on Monday called for better European cooperation on medicines. He said this on the sidelines of a visit with European Commission vice president Margrethe Vestager to Argenx, a Ghent-based biotech pioneer developing drugs for rare diseases.

Vestager was received on Monday for a tour of Argenx's labs, in order to stress the need for further European cooperation in the field of medicines. "The European Commission makes sure that; with 27 countries; we are stronger when we work together," said De Croo. "For example, when we negotiate with industry about the price we pay for our medicines. If we do that together, we are much stronger than if each country acts individually."

"The European Commission makes sure that, with 27 countries, we are stronger when we work together"

Just last month, the European Commission already stressed the need for EU-wide cooperation on critical medicines. The Commission called on companies, governments and organisations to join a new Alliance for Essential Medicines. The alliance, which was announced in October, aims to tackle the shortage of critical medicines in Europe.

Last year, several European member states faced shortages of antibiotics, painkillers and other medicines. Belgian Health minister Frank Vandenbroucke has been at the forefront of calls for greater European cooperation and coordination on this issue.

Access to EU market

Biotechnology accounts for almost a quarter of total R&D investment in Belgium. However, companies often face obstacles when it comes to marketing their drugs. "The European Commission is trying to harmonise health systems," says De Croo. "This is good for the government, which pays the right price. But also for our biotech companies, which are often smaller. It gives them very quick access to the whole European market.

The prime minister wants to focus on R&D and support for the biotech sector during the Belgian presidency of the European Union.


Belgian prime minister Alexander De Croo at Argenx in Ghent © BELGA PHOTO BENOIT DOPPAGNE

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