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Public Health

DIE WELTGESUNDHEITSORGANISATION VERSAGT MAL WIEDER: DIESMAL CORONAVIRUS

Letzte Woche, während des Weltwirtschaftsforums in Davos, konnte man den Generaldirektor der Weltgesundheitsorganisation (WHO) Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus noch lachend und entspannt über die Davoser Promenade schlendern sehen. Zu diesem Zeitpunkt sah die WHO noch keine internationale Gefahr in dem chinesischen Coronavirus. Trotz Berichten aus China von rapide ansteigenden Ansteckungen und Unklarheit darüber, wie offen die kommunistische Regierung in Peking mit den wirklichen Zahlen umgeht, gab sich der Chef der Genfer Behörde entspannt.

Mittlerweile hat die WHO ihre ursprüngliche Einschätzung der Lage revidiert. So wird nun weltweit von einem hohen Risiko ausgegangen. Geschichte scheint sich hier wieder einmal zu wiederholen, schon 2014 reagierte die WHO mit monaten Verzögerung beim Ausbruch des tödlichen Ebolavirus in Westafrika.

Die wichtigste Aufgabe der WHO sollte in der internationalen Bekämpfung von Epidemien gesehen werden. Doch leider verbringt sie zu viel Zeit mit Konferenzen und thematischen Auseinandersetzungen in ganz anderen Bereichen.

Nächste Woche tagt der geschäftsführende Vorstand der WHO vom 3. bis 8. Februar in Genf. Anstelle sich nun wirklich auf die wichtigsten Themen zu konzentrieren, wie zum Beispiel eine zeitnahe und fehlerfreie Antwort auf den sich ausbreitenden Coronavirus, zeigt die Tagesordnung dieser Sitzung, wie die Behörde Zeit und Steuergelder mit peripheren Themen verschwendet.

Die Tagesordnung verbringt eine ganze erste Seite mit Reformvorschlägen für Gesundheitssysteme hin zu universellen Krankenkassen. Solche Themen sollten zwar eher Teil von Innenpolitik sein, die WHO scheint aber ideologische Grabenkämpfe wichtiger zu finden als die globale Bekämpfung von Killerviren.

Auf den hinteren Seiten der Tagesordnung findet sich dann neben “gesundem Altern” und der “Renovierung der WHO Zentrale” auch ein Krisenplan für globale Pandemien.

Bevor es zu Krisenbewältigung auf der Agenda kommt, wird es wahrscheinlich erstmal einige Tage und die Bekämpfung von Patenten und geistigem Eigentum gehen. In den letzten Jahren hat sich die WHO zu einem zentralen Sprachrohr gegen Innovation und Privatwirtschaft gemausert. Die Verwässerung und langsame Abschaffung von Patenten auf Medikamenten sieht die WHO als bestes Mittel um steigende Gesundheitskosten zu verhindern. Dass Einfuhrzölle und Verbrauchssteuern auf Medikamente gerade in Schwellenländern oft 40% des Preises ausmachen, erwähnt die WHO lieber nicht. Allein in China geben Patienten über 5 Milliarden Euro pro Jahr nur für Zölle auf importierte Medikamente aus. Gerade in Zeiten eines massiven Virusausbruchs sollten solche unethischen Steuern in Frage gestellt werden.

Es war auch die Privatwirtschaft die parallel vier unterschiedliche Ebolaimpfstoffe in den letzten Jahren schnell und effektiv entwickelt hat. Ähnliches wird nun beim Coronavirus benötigt. Die Strategie der WHO Anreize bei der Medikamentenentwicklung zu entfernen könnte extrem negative Auswirkungen für die Weltbevölkerung haben.

Es wäre dem WHO Vorstand zu raten, sich weniger mit der Verschönerung seiner Büroräume auszusetzen, sondern eher mit der sofortigen Antwort auf massive Bedrohungen für die weltweite Gesundheit und globale Handelsströme, wie Ebola und das Coronavirus. Mit einem Budget von 2 Milliarden Euro pro Jahr und über 10% davon für Reisekosten veranschlagt, muss sich die WHO die berechtigte Frage stellen, ob die Behörde nicht massiv geschrumpft und auf ihre Kernaufgaben ausgerichtet werden muss.

Selbst als Befürworter des schlanken Staates sollte man die Notwendigkeit eines internationalen Koordinierungs- und Aktivierungsorgans im Bereich transnationale Epidemien sehen. Leider kommt die WHO dieser Aufgabe nur wenig nach.

Originally published here.


The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at consumerchoicecenter.org

The World Health Organization fails us again: This time Coronavirus

Fred Roeder, Health Economist and Managing Director of the Consumer Choice Center

Last week when visiting Davos during the World Economic Forum, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization, casually walked down the main street of the small alpine town without a worry in his face. At that moment, his organization saw  no international threat in the Chinese-originating coronavirus. This was despite worrying reports from China and questionable legitimacy of the official numbers provided by the Chinese Communist government.

Since then, the WHO has apologized and corrected their initial assessment. The virus is now seen as a high risk to the East Asian region and globally. 

History is repeating itself once more During the Ebola crisis in West Africa in 2014, it took the WHO months to finally declare an emergency. They were too tied up in fighting non-communicable diseases. 

The most important task, and the founding reason, of the WHO should be combating international diseases and coordination of rapid crisis responses. But unfortunately the Geneva-based agency spends much of its time with topics such as road safety, secondhand smoke, vaping, and the renovation of their own offices.

Next week the body’s executive board will convene from February 3rd-8th. Instead of revamping their agenda and fully focusing on how to contain the coronavirus, the current agenda prioritizes many other points before dealing with an international crisis response.

While our taxes should be spent on keeping us safe from this virus, the WHO’s board will instead spend the first couple of days discussing ideological ideas of universal healthcare reforms in emerging markets and how to limit patents of pharmaceutical companies. This is apparently more important for an agency that spends 10% of its 2 billion annual budget than figuring out how to effectively combat killer viruses. 

Once you scroll down the agenda of the meeting, you will finally find crisis response next to topics such as ‘aging in health’ and ‘renovation of the WHO Headquarters’.

So instead of putting the very real and scary threat of the Coronavirus first, the board members will prioritize how to limit incentives for the private sector to come up with treatments and vaccinations for the virus. Scrapping patents and limiting intellectual property rights are key pillars of the WHO’s priorities these days. Limiting patents is seen as a solution to curb health costs in emerging markets. For the international governmental organization, this seems to be an easier way than actually calling out their member states who often increase drug prices by 10-40% through import taxes and sales taxes paid by patients.

Chinese patients alone pay over 5 billion dollars a year on tariffs for drugs they import. In times of a massive health crisis in China, the WHO should urge the Chinese government to drop all of these tariffs momentarily.

After the Ebola outbreak in 2014, the private sector quickly reacted and several companies developed and delivered Ebola-vaccines at the same time. Now we need a similarly quick response for the coronavirus. Therefore, the WHO should not limit the innovative potential of the pharmaceutical industry but encourage them to invest in finding vaccines.

The coronavirus has already taken too many human lives and the situation will worsen. International trade and the global economy can also easily take a massive hit from a worsening situation. Instead of debating how to make the WHO’s offices better looking for natural light, its board should focus 100% on how to contain and combat the coronavirus. That’s priority number one.

Over and over, we see how the WHO fails to respond in an accurate and timely manner to such pandemics. It is high time for the agency to focus on its core mission: Protecting us from trans-national diseases.

How a coronavirus epidemic in China could ripple through the global economy

An international outbreak of respiratory illness sparked by a novel coronavirus has spread from its origins in central China to at least 11 countries, with more than 1,200 confirmed cases — including a presumed case in Canada — and over 40 deaths.

Like previous outbreaks, including the SARS virus 17 years ago, the flu-like disease poses a risk to economies around the world as fear and confusion lead to abrupt changes in behaviour, decreased economic activity and a ripple effect across sectors that threatens everything from productivity to consumer prices.

The Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome pandemic of 2003 cost the Chinese economy up to US$20 billion, according to the Asian Development Bank, as travel warnings and transit shutdowns discouraged consumption, foreign tourists stayed away and local residents stopped going out.

“The travel and tourism sectors were most obviously hit, although that ripples through the entire economy,” said Richard Smith, a professor of health economics at the University of Exeter Medical School.

“But many effects are short-lived during an outbreak as once the panic is over people go back to business as usual.”

Chinese authorities clamped down on mass transit during the SARS outbreak, hampering commutes, shopping runs and social outings. The national securities regulatory commission closed stock and futures markets in Shanghai and Shenzhen for two weeks to prevent viral transmission. And Beijing ordered movie theatres, internet cafes and other venues to shut down temporarily while hotels, conference centres, restaurants and galleries saw visitors almost disappear completely.

China’s response to the current crisis appears to be swifter, and the disease less virulent, but the country now boasts a far more extensive high-speed rail network than it did in 2003, and its economy is six times larger, upping the risk of transmission and the repercussions of an epidemic.

“China is the engine of the global economy, churning out goods,” said German health economist Fred Roeder.

Its critical role in international shipping may be thrown into disarray as authorities begin to hold back some ships from entering the port at Wuhan, a key hub on the Yangtze River.

“If they cannot leave it creates huge delays in the supply chain and value chain of businesses all across the world,” Roeder said. “It could actually hit the latest generation of smartphone if ports are shutting down.”

Manufacturing could also feel the crunch as supply chains stall, he said.

Roeder has felt firsthand the disruptive power of a pandemic. In the summer of 2003 the teenage Berliner was eagerly gearing up for a United Nations youth conference that would take him to Taipei, but the event was cancelled a few days beforehand due to SARS.

The epidemic also sparked layoffs and time away from work. At one point Singapore Airlines asked its 6,600 cabin crew to take unpaid leave. Children stayed home from school, prompting more parents to shirk their job duties and further reducing productivity, said AltaCorp Capital analyst Chris Murray.

“I was losing guys left, right and centre as people were quarantined,” recalled Murray, based in Toronto — the epicentre of the SARS pandemic outside of Asia. The disease infected 438 Canadians in total and caused 44 deaths in the Toronto area.

The economic damage culminated with World Health Organization’s one-week travel advisory for the city in April 2003, costing the Canadian economy an estimated $5.25 billion that year.

The outbreak of H1N1, or swine flu, in 2009 also sparked work “dislocations,” Murray said. “It went from, ‘Maybe it’ll be okay,’ to sheer panic.”

Freelancers and gig economy workers such as musicians or ride-hail drivers may feel the pinch more acutely, since they can’t rely on a steady wage when demand shrinks.

“It’s something that unfortunately has happened before in a similar way and it tends to affect areas like retail,” said Carolyn Wilkins, senior deputy governor of the Bank of Canada, said this week.

“People don’t go out, they don’t fly in planes, they don’t do as much tourism to the affected areas,” she said.

The fallout makes workers ranging from servers to wholesale bakers to non-unionized hotel staff more vulnerable. Meanwhile spending or investment plans by larger companies may have to be delayed, said Roeder.

It is not clear how lethal the new coronavirus is or even whether it is as dangerous as the ordinary flu, which kills about 3,500 people every year in Canada alone.

Originally published here.


The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at 
consumerchoicecenter.org

We must resist Public Health England’s brave new world

We must resist Public Health England’s brave new world

In a remarkable authoritarian parting shot as she left her post as Chief Medical Officer, Dame Sally Davies published a report entitled Time to Solve Childhood Obesity, which was warmly welcomed by Health Secretary Matt Hancock.

The report’s recommendations would create a positively dystopian world. Public Health England want to outright ban eating on public transport. Inflated VAT rates would make simple food and drinks purchases seem rather more extravagant than before.

There would be no more junk food ads, and buying fast food would become an ordeal and a luxury. But if the government opts to follow the report’s recommendations – which is a real possibility, whoever wins the election – this Brave New World could soon become a reality.

The supposed childhood obesity epidemic has been slowly but surely taking over British public health discourse. It began around 2005, with Jamie Oliver’s televisual lip service, and eventually resulted in George Osborne’s sugar tax eleven years later.

With over one in five English 10 and 11-year-olds suffering from obesity according to the latest available data from the NHS, the government has understandably set alarm bells ringing.

The domineering, restrictive approach being proposed by Public Health England, however, brings to light some deep-seated issues.

The key one has to do with individual freedoms. Radical measures like taxing ‘unhealthy’ foods, banning ads and enforcing plain packaging would fail to tackle childhood obesity, while also harshly affecting adults and their personal choices.

This kind of nannyism is remarkably cross-party, differing only in degree. While Jeremy Corbyn’s support for sin taxes and junk food ad bans comes as no surprise, it is quite baffling to witness Tories persistently meddling with individual choices too.

Considering the party’s ideological roots, you would expect the Conservatives to be more mindful of the dangers this approach poses for the fundamental freedom to choose.

Plain packaging of tobacco products and the ban on plastic straws signalled a drastic shift away from core Conservative values, and it seems that things are only getting worse.

Public support appears dishearteningly high for such approaches. A YouGov poll from a few months ago showed that 55% of the public believe we need additional taxation on unhealthy foods and drinks. Alarmingly, the figure among Conservative voters is 54%.

The poll also found that nearly two thirds of British adults would be in favour of banning junk food TV ads before the 9pm watershed, with only 20% opposed. Almost three quarters support restrictions on food advertising on YouTube and social media.

In this context, ad bans and harsh authoritarian restrictions are seeming less and less draconian. It would appear that infringing on individual choices is politically profitable in Britain today.

It is little wonder, then, that the Conservative party continues to err on the side of greater state interference, despite the ideological mismatch it causes.

Whether we will truly find ourselves waking up one day to be greeted by Public Health England’s brave and healthy new world remains unclear.

Back in July, Boris Johnson vowed to review sin taxes and put an end once and for all to the “continuing creeping of the nanny state”, but since then, solid commitments or steps in that direction have not been forthcoming.

Perhaps, the nanny state seems appealing to many at the moment because we have not yet experienced fully-fledged nannyism in action.

If the current trend continues, we may find out by 2024 whether following Public Health England’s programme of taxes, ad bans and plain packaging will be enough to fight childhood obesity, or if yet more restrictions on choice will be on their way.

Originally published here.


The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at 
consumerchoicecenter.org

As vape panic roils, flurry of lawsuits against Juul has begun

Inhale vapor. Exhale cash. 

The health risks around vaping are so unknown, and there is so much money in the pockets of e-cigarette makers like Juul lawyers are greasing up their hands for the reach-in. 

Here are some e-cig lawsuits already filed: 

A Kansas dude who says he goes through five pods a week.

A Connecticut man who says false advertising led him to start using Juuls, which he says cause him chest pain. 

A New Jersey dad who bought Juuls for his 14-year-old son, who now coughs and vomits

Dozens of lawsuits, all against Juul. Many of these lawsuits say that Juul’s happy, slick ads misled them into thinking Juuls were safe, when in fact they’ve lead to health problems. 

The concequenses of vaping are unclear at this point, and it may be decades before we know actual long-term effects. Scientists are studying links between vaping and lung diesase, seizure and addiction. 

But so far, 530 vapers have gotten sick nationwide, and eight people have died. 

Many reports said the cause was mainly — but not always — black-market vape cartridges that contain THC. 

But the lawsuits against Juul allege it was regular, off-the-shelf Juul products that did the damage. 

One reason lawsuits target Juul is Juul is a $38 billion company; Altria, owner of cigarette company Philip Morris, recently invested $13 billion in Juul. 

Lawyers remember that, 20 years ago, state officials wrenched a $200 billion settlement from cigarette-makers like Philip Morris. Lawyers sense billions of dollars in payouts from Juul, too. 

Lawyers will go after Juul for many reasons: for hooking kids, for draining their bank accounts, for harming their healths. 

To recruit new clients for more lawsuits, lawyers are already using skeevy tactics. For one, they’re running Facebook ads with a viral photo of a teen who says vape use put her in the hospital, with a link to a website called Juul-claims.com. 

“What we’re seeing now is a coordinated campaign on behalf of injury lawyers to abuse the science on vaping,” said Yaël Ossowski, deputy director of the industry-lobbying group Consumer Choice Center, in a statement. “To drum up as much misinformation on vaping as possible in order to file large class-action lawsuits that will end up financially benefiting them.” 

Eight vape-related deaths are eight too many, but eight is not a large number. Eight million deaths worldwide are related to cigarattes every year.  

After those eight vape-related deaths, the revolt against vaping been swift and massive. 

India — home to 1.3 billion people and 130 million smokers — just banned e-cigs entirely. Punishment could include a year in prison. Wal-Mart will stop selling all e-cigs. (Wal-Mart will still sell real cigarattes.) New York state banned flavored e-cigsMichigan followed

Juul has been backpeddaling: Juul deleted its Facebook and Instagram accounts, since those are teen hangouts. Juul paused selling flavoried vape pods. 

And the vape-related deaths are scaring people back toward cigarettes, almost certainly an unhealthy move, since public health officials believe vaping is 95 percent safer than smoking cigarettes. 

Yes, the lawyers are coming after Juul. Expect Juul to be on the ropes soon. In fact, the guy who blew the whistle on Big Tobacco, who was played by Russell Crowe in the movie “The Insider,” has now turned his sights on Juul, saying Juul’s tactics are “right out of the Philip Morris playbook,” and says lawsuits against Juul are a way to “drive a stake through [Philip Morris’s] heart.”

Article originally published here.


For more facts about vaping, read our Research on the Myths and Facts on Vaping: What Policymakers Should Know


The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at 
consumerchoicecenter.org

Juul’s Latest Play to Survive Washington, D.C.: Win Over Black Lawmakers

“It’s about time someone’s reaching out to the communities that need the most help,” said Jeff Stier, a senior fellow at the Consumer Choice Center and a leading vaping advocate, in an interview with The Daily Beast.

But Stier acknowledged that, beyond potential public health benefits, there’s also a political upside to the strategy.

“If you’re making arguments like I often make about consumer choice, those arguments on the e-cig front don’t always resonate with the people who represent a disproportionate number of smokers,” Stier said. “So you may not make the same argument to Rand Paul that you would to a congressman in the African-American community.”

Read more here

Sweets, crisps and sugary drinks should have plain packaging, says think tank

In response to the report, Maria Chaplia, media associate at the Consumer Choice Center, said: “The British obesity problem is rooted in the lack of physical activity, not in consumption preferences. According to Public Health England, physical activity in the UK declined by 24% since the 1960s. By pushing forward the plain packaging of foods, its proponents are simply shooting in the wrong direction.

“The most unacceptable part of the IPPR’s plain packaging scheme is that it stems from the assumption that it knows what choices are better for individuals. Though framed to be in the public interest, this is highly pretentious. Not only does this belief undermine the ability of consumers to decide for themselves, but it also blocks their access to the information about the products they buy and consume. Information is dispersed through branding. Plain packaging is aimed to make our life plain of choices.”

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A soda tax is a bad idea, and we can prove it

Opinion: A sugary drink tax shouldn’t be dismissed just because it fails to achieve its goals. It is also heavily regressive.

Liberal MP Julie Dabrusin is calling for a national 20-per-cent tax on sugar-sweetened beverages.Jeff Chiu/AP

By David Clement

Canada has an obesity problem, both for adults, and for children. When you look at the numbers, they immediately jump off the page. Since 1978, the obesity rate for Canadians has more than doubled. In 1978, the number of adults who were considered obese was 14 per cent. In 2014, that figure was 28 per cent. General forecasts on this trend state that the number of adults who are obese could rise to 34 per cent by 2025. Rates of obesity this high create a myriad of negative health outcomes, and cost the health-care system billions of dollars annually.

There have been a variety of policies proposed to help curb obesity. Most recently was the call for a national soft drink tax by Liberal MP Julie Dabrusin. Specifically, Dabrusin is calling for a 20-per-cent tax on sugar-sweetened beverages. The thought process here is simple: if you excessively tax a product, it will end up discouraging the purchase of that product, which will lead to better health outcomes and lower expenditures on obesity-related illnesses. The problem with this new tax proposal is that these sin taxes almost always fail to achieve their desired outcome, and have the negative externality of being heavily regressive against the poor.

Sin taxes almost always fail to achieve their desired outcome 

Dabrusin’s goal of healthier outcomes is a noble one, but excessively taxing sugary drinks isn’t a serious solution. We know from other jurisdictions that additional taxes on sugary drinks rarely achieve their goal of reducing caloric intake in any meaningful way. For example, Mexico, a country with an obesity rate near 70 per cent, enacted a sugary drink tax with the goal of reducing caloric intake, thus producing better health outcomes. An analysis of the impact of the tax showed that it reduced consumption of these drinks by only 3.8 per cent, which represents less than seven calories per day. A reduction of this size can hardly be considered a success.

Domestically, we have seen several proposals for sugary drink taxes. In the past provincial election in New Brunswick, Green Party Leader David Coon proposed that the province enact a sugary drink tax of 20 cents per litre. The proposed tax would have added taxes on all pop, most juices, all carbonated water, all non-carbonated flavoured water, most teas, drinkable yogurts and flavoured milk. The major issue with this provincial version of what Dabrusin is proposing is that the designers of the tax scheme openly admitted that it was unlikely to make any significant impact on caloric intake. According to the Green Party’s own submission, the 20-per-cent tax was at best going to reduce overall sugary drink intake by two per cent a year.

In the past provincial election in New Brunswick, the Green Party proposed a sugary drink tax of 20 cents per litre. Getty Images/iStockphoto

At the most, the New Brunswick tax would reduce caloric intake for the average resident by a measly 2.5 calories per day. This estimate was created by using full-calorie soft drinks as a reference point, meaning that the total caloric reduction could actually be much less than 2.5 calories per day given that consumers often consume other sugar-sweetened beverages with fewer total calories than full-calorie soft drinks. It is safe to say that reducing caloric intake by, at most, 2.5 calories per day would have no significant impact on public health. We don’t yet have Dabrusin’s projections on caloric-intake reductions, but from what we can see at the provincial level, the impact wouldn’t be significant in any way.

A sugary drink tax shouldn’t just be dismissed because it fails to achieve its goals. It should also be dismissed because it is heavily regressive. Mexico, again as an example, shows that taxes like the one proposed have a devastating impact on low-income families. The majority of the tax revenue generated from the Mexican tax came from low-income families. Specifically, 61.3 per cent of the revenue generated came from households with low socioeconomic status. Thus, the funds raised were derived from the most vulnerable in society. Supporters of Dabrusin’s proposed tax have cited that the revenue generated would be around $1.2 billion per year. If the Mexican regressive trend holds true for Canada, which can be assumed because it was apparent in cities like Philadelphia, then $732 million of that $1.2 billion will come directly from low-income Canadians. This is an uncomfortable fact that supporters of the tax have yet to sufficiently address.

$732 million of that $1.2 billion will come directly from low-income Canadians 

Soft-drink taxes are simply bad policies being used to combat a real problem. These taxes almost always miss their mark, and disproportionately impact low-income consumers. These truths are part of the reason Cook County, Ill. (which includes Chicago) repealed its soft-drink tax. Because of these fairly consistent trends, the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research, in a report to the Ministry of Health, stated that “We have yet to see any clear evidence that imposing a sugar tax would meet a comprehensive cost-benefit test.” It’s clear that obesity is a problem in Canada, but it is also clear that soft-drink taxes don’t pass the cost-benefit test, and shouldn’t be considered as a serious solution.

— David Clement is the North American Affairs Manager for the Consumer Choice Center.

Read more here

Interview with Fred Roeder, an overview of the European medication Market

European elections 2019: science at the polls

In the context of the European elections, European Scientist is bringing you an overview of experts from different countries on various topics around science and science policy in Europe, in order to provide a panorama and analysis, which will be useful for the next commission.

The Europeans Scientist: What does the European medication Market looks like at the moment? How about the regulation?

After the United States, Europe is the most important and innovative region for pharmaceutical breakthroughs. Five out of ten of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies are based in Europe (though only two of them in the EU after Brexit). The regulation and access to medicines in Europe is partially regulated by the EU and partially by Member States. To understand this better it’s important to distinct between mere market authorization, which allows a drug manufacturer to sell its product in a country and pricing and reimbursement decisions which determine the price of the drug and whether the public health insurance covers it.

Market access decisions are either made by the EU or at least regulated uniformly. While the European Medicines Agency (EMA) is currently busy with moving from London to Amsterdam, it has also a central role in the medicines approval system within the EU, Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway. If a pharmaceutical company seeks marketing authorization for an innovative drug in even just one EU Member State it has (in most cases) to apply centrally at the EMA for a marketing authorization. Generics and other medicines can be approved by national medicines agencies through either a decentralized method or by mutual recognition of existing marketing approvals in other Member States.

The decision on how much a pharmaceutical company, a wholesaler, and pharmacies can actually charge for drugs is made on either member state level or even on lower regional levels. Traditionally wealthier countries pay higher prices for drugs and cover more innovative medicine than less wealthy member states. There has been recently a push by Italy and also the World Health Organization to bring price controls on to a supranational level. Several EU countries already collaborate in the hope to have a higher bargaining power against pharmaceutical companies in the price negotiations.

ES: Is there a model to follow? Do you recommend more regulation and harmonisation or do you think that each state should keep its difference?

Different numbers show that innovative pharmaceutical companies make over 50% of their global profits in the United States. This has historically allowed Europe to have lower drug prices than the US. The current aggressive moves to bring drug prices even further down in several EU countries might severely harm the future pipeline for innovation in Europe. As a patient I am of course interested in cost control but I am even more interested in new drugs that are able to cure diseases we currently can’t treat. Many politicians run a populist train of cutting profits for pharmaceutical companies. This sounds first sexy but might jeopardize future scientific breakthroughs.

ES: What are your recommendations for the next Commission?

During the stalled TTIP talks there were good idea about more regulatory harmonization between the US FDA and Europe’s EMA. It would be good if the next Commission picks up these conversations and pushes for mutually recognizing market approvals of FDA and EMA. This would put both regulators under competitive pressure: Drug companies would seek approval first at the regulator that promises a better market approval process. Patients in this jurisdiction would benefit from life-saving innovative drugs being earlier available. Another important area were we still need improvements is to allow more patients to have access to potentially life-saving drugs that have not been approved by regulators yet. This is called compassionate use – One of these programs got recently approved in the United States and is called Right to Try. A terminally ill patient should have the right to try experimental (and potential unsafe) medicine if there’s a chance that this drug would save his or her life.  At the same time the Commission should refrain from pushing for unified drug prices in the EU.

Right now less affluent Member States benefit from high drug prices in the ‘North’. If there’s regulatory push to bring drug prices down to the smallest common denominator we risk that some innovative medicines companies just pull out of Europe entirely or massively delay the launch of their drugs in Europe.

Fred Roeder is a Health Economist and Managing Director of the Consumer Choice Center

Read more here

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