On 16 February 2022, Parliament’s plenary adopted its final proposals on how to strengthen the EU’s role in the fight against cancer. They include the following:
1. Taking stronger EU action to address key risk factors and social determinants of cancer
- strongly supports the goal of a ‘tobacco-free generation’ and calls for, inter alia:
- funding programmes that promote smoking cessation
- an increase and an upward convergence in minimum excise duties for all tobacco products and their final market price
- strict enforcement of the ban on characterising flavours in tobacco products, and a call for the Commission to evaluate which flavours in e-cigarettes are in particular attractive to minors and non-smokers, and propose a ban on these, as well as a ban on all characteristic flavours in heated tobacco products and novel tobacco products
- scientific evaluations of health risks related to electronic cigarettes , heated tobacco products and novel tobacco products
- rapid and complete implementation of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) and the WHO Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products
- underlines that harmful alcohol consumption is a risk factor for many different cancers and calls for, inter alia:
- promotion of actions to reduce and prevent alcohol-related harm within the framework of a revised EU alcohol strategy, including a European strategy of zero alcohol consumption for minors
- better information to consumers by improving the labelling of alcohol beverages to include moderate and responsible drinking information and introducing the mandatory indication of ingredients and nutritional information
- prohibition of alcohol advertising and sponsorchip at sport events when those events are mainly attended by minor
- calls for a mandatory and harmonised EU front-of-pack nutritional label that is developed based on robust independent scientific evidence to encourage and help consumers to make informed, healthy and sustainable choices about food products;
- calls for the strengthening of the information requirements on carcinogenicity under REACH to enable identification of all carcinogenic substances manufactured or imported, in line with the European Commission’s Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability;
- calls on the Commission to present an action plan to achieve occupational exposure limit values for at least 25 additional substances, groups of substances or process-generated substances by 2024.
2. Extending screening schemes and launching an EU platform of national screening centres
- calls on the Commission to include other cancers (besides breast, cervical and colorectal cancer), based on latest scientific evidence, into the new EU-supported Cancer Screening Scheme, with clear targets for each type of cancer;
- considers that common standardised screening protocols are needed at EU level, in order to address disparities in cancer screening;
- advocates the launch by the Commission and the Member States of a European platform for national screening centres, responsible for (i) sharing expertise and implementing best practices, (ii) discussing common challenges, (iii) encouraging collaboration, training and capacity-building for improving quality in screening programmes, (iv) acting as central hub for projects and initiatives on cancer screening supported by the EU, and (v) maintaining in the long term the network of data providers to the implementation report by the IARC on cancer screening;
3. Facilitating access to cross-border health care and clinical trials for cancer patients
- calls for a reform of the Cross-border Healthcare Directive, notably to allow for mobility and access to highly specialised equipment and care through the reinforcement of the National Contact Points (NCPs) by providing them with more budgetary resources;
- calls on the Commission to consider, in the context of the next revision of existing frameworks, the setting up of a single set of authorisation and reimbursement rules for the access to cross border healthcare, including a right to second opinion;
- calls on the Commission and the Member States to support the development of European multicentre clinical trials, especially in the case of low incidence cancers and/or cancers with reduced treatment options, and to strengthen multi-national cooperation and the conduct of cross-border clinical trials;
4. Extending joint procurement procedures and managing shortages of cancer medicines
- strongly advocates the extension of joint procurement procedures, especially for (ultra)rare, paediatric and novel cancer medicines and treatments, diagnostic procedures and companion diagnostic tests, as well as cancer preventing vaccines like HPV and hepatitis B vaccines, to counter shortages and improve affordability and access to cancer treatments at EU level;
- urges the Commission to develop guidelines, in the context of the EU Public Procurement Directive 2014/24/EU, to support public procurement practices in the pharmaceutical field for cancer drugs;
- calls for the EU pharmaceutical legislation to introduce a legal obligation for pharmaceutical companies to report information to the European Medicines Agency (EMA) on adequate safety stocks of essential cancer medicines and stresses the importance of the role of sustainable procurement practices in preventing medicine shortages.
5. Guaranteeing the “Right to be Forgotten” to all European patients
- requests that by 2025, at the latest, all Member States should guarantee the Right to be Forgotten to all European patients ten years after the end of their treatment, and up to five years after the end of treatment for patients whose diagnosis was made before the age of 18;
- calls for the introduction of common standards for the Right to be Forgotten under the relevant provisions on consumer protection policy of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, in order to remedy the fragmented national practices in the area of creditworthiness assessment and ensure equal access to credit for cancer survivors;
- calls for embedding into relevant EU legislation the Right to be Forgotten for cancer-survivors to prevent discrimination and improve the access of cancer survivors to financial services.
6. Enhancing transparency of prices, use of public funding, clinical trials information
- calls for more transparency throughout the pharmaceutical system, especially regarding pricing components, reimbursement criteria and the actual (net) prices of medicines in different European countries to ensure fairer prices and bring public accountability in the pharmaceutical sector;
- calls on the Commission to make fair pricing and affordability of new treatments a core element of Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan and the Pharmaceutical Strategy for Europe, notably by attaching conditionalities to European public funding and ensure that public investment in R&D is accounted for and that medicines resulting from publicly funded research, are available for a fair and affordable price;
- considers that conditions for access to public funding for cancer research should be revised, ensuring transparency of the contracts stipulated between public and private entities;
- advocates more robust scrutiny of clinical trials and more transparency in research and development of cancer treatments, including the establishment of a portal to allow patients access to information on the available clinical trials in Europe;
- calls for making the Cancer Inequalities Registry accessible to the public and also cover social inequalities such as those related to socio-economic status, occupation and gender;
7. Ensuring access to innovative cancer drugs and treatments for all patients
- calls on the Commission to strengthen the European medicines market in order to improve equal access to treatment, including innovations and personalised medicine, reduce medicine shortages, overcome the problem of high prices for innovative technologies and treatments, encourage the use of generic and biosimilar medicines and improve cancer treatments for adults and children;
- calls on the Commission to create a pharmaceutical legislation framework for oncological medicines and therapies which promotes real breakthrough innovations and not the so-called ‘me too 'pharmaceuticals (products which largely duplicate the action of existing drugs or highly expensive pharmaceuticals that offer only minor improvements for patients);
- calls for an ambitious revision of the regulations on paediatric and orphan medicinal products in order to ensure the development of and an affordable access to innovative cancer drugs.
8. Securing adequate and sustained long-term funding
- calls on the Commission and Member States to increase the funding for scientific research into the causes of cancer and the efficiency and implementation of preventive measures;
- calls for adequate funding to be ensured for a variety of other fields including screening efforts for hepatitis C, combatting the impact of misinformation on vaccination and addressing vaccine hesitancy, expanding Member States radiation therapy infrastructure, supporting the increase of digital literacy for patients and healthcare professionals, boosting cancer research with dedicated funding for research into paediatric and rare cancers;
- calls on the Commission and the Member States to secure appropriate and sustained long-term funding for the European Reference Networks (ERNs), as well as their integration into national health systems.
9. Strengthening of the Knowledge Centre on Cancer and cancer registries
- calls for the continuous strengthening of the EU’s Knowledge Centre on Cancer, which would be tasked with establishing a European roadmap to devise and coordinate large-scale prevention campaigns, in synergies with national programmes, and effective communication campaigns on health promotion in educational programmes;
- considers that the Knowledge Centre should involve all stakeholders (representatives of each NCCP, patients’ and caregivers’ associations, learned societies, relevant EU bodies and agencies, representatives of economic operators, etc.) and that its mission should be clearly defined;
- considers that the Knowledge Centre should facilitate the sharing of anonymised data, collected in a European Cancer Cloud, for clinicians and researchers, as well as for entities developing health services and modern technological solutions for cancer patients;
- supports the strengthening of the capacity of national cancer registries to collect standardised patient-reported outcomes, to better map EU citizens’ lifestyle, socio-economic conditions and occupational information, environmental factors, and data to identify the causes of inequalities, and recommends the creation of at least one cancer registry in each EU region.
10. Reinforcing the role of health professionals in cancer care
- calls for the role of a treatment coordinator to be made more widespread in order to ensure that patients receive appropriate coordination, to give them easy access to updated information related to cancer diagnosis and advice on how to use the health system;
- calls on the Member States to develop, within their national cancer control plans, strategies that encompass and implement preventive measures against the risk of burnout among cancer care professionals;
- underlines the importance of constant training for health professionals to keep them updated on new cancer treatment options;
- requests the mutual recognition of professional qualifications for cancer nursing, palliative care and other medical staff supporting the treatment process.