Reducing Barriers to Access Medicines

Medical agencies across the globe were busy approving a record number of medicines in 2015. At the European end, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) approved 93 products for sale within the EU’s 28 member states in 2015. At the same time, the EMA’s counterpart across the Atlantic, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) charged with the review and approval of new medicines in the United States, approved 45 new treatments – the highest number since 1996.

Many of the products approved by the medical agencies include ingredients that have never been used in medicines to date, indicating an ongoing focus on finding breakthrough treatments for rare and serious diseases. This heightened level of approvals is a sign of tremendous progress, but that progress must now translate into real results for all patients.

Patients all over the world suffering from cancer, diabetes and other diseases still need to wait until the medicine they need is also approved in their home countries. But what does this all have to do with international trade? Quite a lot.

The EMA was created in the mid-1990s in the hope of unifying the review and approval processes for the entire European continent. And it worked. Today, companies no longer have to routinely spend time submitting their innovative products to various medical agencies in each individual country, which can delay release and prevent patients from accessing much-needed treatment. Instead, consumers from Brussels to Barcelona to Budapest can take advantage of cutting-edge therapies regardless of where they are discovered and produced.

This is the same objective we seek to progress today, but on an even larger scale. By lowering barriers to trade through progressive trade policies, such as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership(TTIP), the American and European life science communities can better align their processes and work toward improving global public health together. With the right policies in place, TTIP will help limit obstacles by further streamlining global regulations on new medicines, which can facilitate more timely access for patients here and in the US. This new coordination will also spark new ideas and encourage further collaboration across the pharmaceutical industry.

The FDA and the EMA approved a combined total in one year of 138 new medicines in 2015. A remarkable achievement, however, while some of the total includes medicines approved in both regions, there are other medicines that were only approved in either the US or Europe.

Thanks to forward-thinking policies and in particular to the potential of TTIP, a patient’s location may no longer dictate the treatment options available to them. For more than 800 million people, the desire for easier access to the best medicines will be fulfilled. That’s a day we’re eagerly awaiting, and a day we hope is just around the corner.