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Driving patient-oriented innovations in EU health systems

Driving patient-oriented innovations in EU health systems

Innovation in healthcare can contribute to the health and well-being of patients and the public by providing new products, services and treatments that work better, or are perhaps cheaper, than existing ones. They may also lead to more effective ways of organising, managing and monitoring health sector activities and improve staff working conditions. The Council of the European Union has adopted conclusions on this important subject.


Council conclusions on innovation for the benefit of patients (2014/C 438/06) (Official Journal C 438 of 6.12.2014, pp. 12-15).



They invite national governments and the European Commission, either jointly or separately, to consider developing various ways to encourage medical innovation for the benefit of patients.


European Union (EU) governments are encouraged to:

  • develop a ‘life cycle approach’ for innovative medicines which covers early scientific advice, pricing and reimbursement and assessment of the efficacy of the new products;
  • implement the health technology assessment strategy with its emphasis on EU-wide cooperation;
  • share information on prices and costs of new medicines;
  • examine whether existing medicines legislation should be amended to allow patients timely access to new drugs.

Between them, EU governments and the Commission are invited to:

  • examine the possibilities of fast-tracking marketing authorisation for new medicines, while ensuring a high level of patient safety;
  • share information on early patient access to new medicines, including for compassionate use (*) of unauthorised medicines;
  • consider whether national pricing policies should take account of the added therapeutic value of new medicines.

Innovation Union is one of the seven flagship initiatives in the Europe 2020 Strategy, the EU’s 10-year economic growth strategy. This aims to use innovative ways to promote good health. In 2011, it launched a pilot European innovation partnership on active and healthy ageing.

This aims to increase the average length of time individuals can live in a healthy state in the EU by 2 years by 2020.


Developing innovative medicines can be costly and time-consuming. It also involves major financial risks. This may lead to a lack of investment in research and development (R & D) and makes it particularly difficult for small companies to bring new products on to the market.


(*) Compassionate use: a treatment option that allows the use of an unauthorised medicine. Compassionate-use programmes are for patients who have a disease with no satisfactory authorised therapies or who cannot enter a clinical trial. They are intended to facilitate the availability to patients of new treatment options under development.

last update 08.05.2015