What did we learn from the BSE crisis? Remember how the European Commission was criticised for letting market concerns take precedence over public health protection? With the ongoing reshuffling of the Commission portfolios by President-elect Juncker, some major units for EU public health protection, such as ‘Health Technology and Cosmetics’, ‘Medicinal Products – Authorisations, European Medicines Agency’, and ‘Medical Products – Quality, Safety and Efficacy’, move from DG SANCO (Health) to DG Enterprise and Industry. The changes to the portfolios come without further explanation and after the deadline for the Parliament to ask written questions has passed. At the same time, the message sent to EU citizens seems to be that in the EU, public health is a means for economic interests rather than an end in and of itself.
By Anniek de Ruijter
In the years following the BSE-crisis increasingly public health portfolios were moved to the health commissioner and became the responsibility of DG SANCO. Important and major aspects of the European internal market such as the safety for pharmaceuticals, medical products and health technology were all moved to DG SANCO. With respect to pharmaceuticals, an important reason for putting DG SANCO in charge was that DG Enterprise failed to manage the 2009 H1N1 crisis with respect to the coordination and availability of vaccines. Thus it was recognized that public health specialists needed to work in tandem in such extremely difficult and multifaceted crises. This mirrors the situation in Member States, where one may find it difficult to find ministerial departments on economic and financial affairs in charge of the approval and safety of medicinal products.