Can the European Medicines Agency (EMA) be truly independent, if it also is in close contact with the pharmaceutical industry? Last week , experts discussed this (and other related topics) at our event in the European Parliament, which Wemos co-organized with the European Parliament group of SP (GUE/NGL).
In front of 100 attendees with various backgrounds (e.g. journalists, patient advocates, and political parties), the experts discussed EMA’s way of working and its relations with the pharmaceutical industry. Some stressed that conflicts of interest exist in all sectors, and that EMA – in order to operate properly – in fact needs its contacts with the industry. According to Noel Wathion (deputy Executive Director of EMA), the agency has a robust system of checks and balances.
Half of new medicines are ‘nothing new’
But some speakers expressed their concern about EMA’s credibility, and that there is still the need for more trust in the agency. Dick Bijl, who spoke on behalf of Wemos, referred to research on the added therapeutic value of new medicines on the European market, stating that 51% could be described as ‘nothing new’ in terms of therapeutic value (as compared to existing medicines). He stressed that European politicians should facilitate the legal possibilities for EMA to demand from the industry that it includes independent trial data in its market authorization application, as independent research has proven to be more transparent about new medicines’ true value than research that has been financially supported by the pharmaceutical industry.
Ella Weggen (global health advocate): ‘We need independent research, in order to assess the added therapeutic value of new medicines on the European market.’