Date Published: 9 December 2005

European Union (EU) Health Council - 9th December 2005

Summary of Discussions

The UK Presidency chaired a meeting of European Health Ministers today.

The main areas of discussion were:

  • Human health aspects of pandemic flu
  • Regulation on medicinal products for paediatric medicines
  • Commission's Green Paper on mental health

EU Health Ministers held an important discussion on the human health aspects of pandemic flu. The Council has come a long way in recent months in developing thinking on how the member states can work together to prepare for a pandemic. Today, agreement was reached on some key issues for further work. The two recent communications on pandemic influenza preparedness and generic emergency preparedness, as well as the lessons from Exercise Common Ground held last month will be very valuable in taking this forward.

The policy discussion on the human health aspects of pandemic flu focused on areas of EU co-operation to complement existing work on this topic. This discussion took place in the context of Member States acknowledging that the first and most vital step is the completion of national contingency plans.

On the subject of risk communication with the public, Council agreed that whilst this was primarily a Member State responsibility, there is a need for clear co-ordination between Member States, and the Commission and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control to avoid confusing messages. The Commission's communication on pandemic influenza preparedness will be important in setting out communication responsibilities in this area.

The Council also discussed the issue of increasing production capacity for both anti viral drugs and vaccines. On vaccines, Council stressed the importance of increasing the research effort into the development of new vaccines. On anti virals, member states agreed that building up production capacity was primarily for member states, but outlined that further consideration should be given to the available options for dealing with a pandemic influenza outbreak including the feasibility and added value of the EU holding a targeted strategic stockpile of anti-viral drugs.

The Council held an interesting and valuable discussion on pandemic flu and the Presidency issued conclusions. The Council will continue to closely focus on pandemic flu under the Austrian Presidency, where there will be more detailed discussion on the contents of the Commissions communication.

On paediatric medicines regulations the Council was able to reach political agreement on the regulations on medicinal products for paediatric use.

The Council gave a clear supportive steer to the Commission on their recent green paper on mental health. Mental ill health is an important part of Europe's public health agenda. The consultation on the green paper concludes at the end of May, but the initial remarks from Health Ministers showed that the Commission have developed an extremely important contribution to this vital area for all Health Ministers.

UK Presidency - December 2005.

Source(s): UK Gov., Dept Health

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