Parliament adopted its final recommendations for a comprehensive and coordinated EU strategy to fight cancer.
The report by Parliament’s Special Committee on Beating Cancer (BECA) was adopted with 652 votes in favour, 15 against and 27 abstentions on Wednesday 16 February 2022.
Focus on cancer prevention
As more than 40% of all cancers are preventable through “coordinated actions targeting behaviour-related, biological, environmental, work-related, socio-economic and commercial” risk factors, MEPs call for effective prevention measures at national and EU level, based on independent scientific expertise. Recommended measures include funding programmes that encourage people to stop smoking and promoting actions to reduce and prevent alcohol-related harm as part of a revised EU alcohol strategy. Parliament also demands a mandatory and harmonised EU front-of-pack nutritional label for food products as well as setting occupational exposure limit values for at least 25 additional substances.
Equal access to cancer care across borders
MEPs are concerned that patients still face challenges when trying to access healthcare services and to participate in clinical trials in other EU countries. They therefore call for the existing legislative framework to be reformed to allow for mobility and access to highly specialised equipment and care. There should be a single set of rules to authorise and reimburse cross-border healthcare, including a right to a second opinion. Multi-national cooperation and the way cross-border clinical trials are run also need to be more effective, they say.
A European approach to address medicines shortages
In order to counter shortages and make cancer treatments more accessible and affordable at EU level, MEPs strongly advocate for extending joint procurement procedures, especially for rare, paediatric and novel cancer medicines and treatments. They also want to diversify the cancer drugs supply chain, monitor shortages more closely and create a strategic stockpile of critical cancer medicines.
Other key recommendations in the report include:
– guaranteeing the “Right to be Forgotten” (by which insurers and banks should not take into account the medical history of people affected by cancer) to all EU patients ten years after the end of their treatment (and up to five years for patients who were diagnosed before the age of 18);
– adding other cancers (besides breast, cervical and colorectal cancer) to the new EU-supported Cancer Screening Scheme;
– ensuring the pharmaceutical system is more transparent, especially regarding pricing components, reimbursement criteria and net prices of medicines in different European countries.
BECA Rapporteur Véronique Trillet-Lenoir (Renew Europe, FR) said: “Twelve years after the last European strategy to beat cancer, the one we are presenting today is historic, both in terms of its ambition and its objectives, and in terms of the resources we will provide. We will finally be able to fight effectively, together, against the health inequalities that persist within the European Union and respond to the needs of millions of Europeans affected by this disease. Today, the European Health Union is moving forward.”