Health innovation has been one of Europe’s great success stories. But the world has changed, the nature of innovation has changed, and past successes can’t guarantee the future.

Our vision for healthcare in Europe is of a region where people stay healthy for longer, where health systems are ready to meet future demand and innovation is valued as an investment, not a cost.

Achieving this vision means detecting, diagnosing and treating health conditions much earlier. It means using the full potential of technology to predict diseases before they develop and intervene as early as possible. It means unlocking the power of data to make health systems more sustainable and bringing breakthrough scientific innovations to more patients faster. It means building on Europe’s commitment to universal healthcare for all citizens.

Roche is pushing the boundaries of science, data and technology to develop the next generation of therapies and diagnostics. We are advancing health innovation in Europe every day because it is innovation that makes better healthcare a reality.

  • More than one third of people aged 16+ in the EU report that they have a long-term health condition1. Imagine being able to improve their health – or even stop them from becoming ill by expanding the use of genomic data to help more people understand and manage their risk factors.

  • Millions of people in the EU are diagnosed with cancer each year and as many as 1.3 million die from the disease2. Imagine if screening, early diagnosis and targeted treatment meant we could stop cancer in its tracks, saving more lives and avoiding costlier interventions for health systems. Imagine being able to prevent it altogether.

  • Even before the pandemic, poor health cost Europe on average about $2.7 trillion, or 15 percent of GDP a year in lost economic opportunity (equivalent to about $5,000 per person)3. Imagine if earlier detections and intervention and more effective treatment could help people living with chronic diseases to stay in the workforce for longer.

The coming together of science, data and technology is creating opportunities to detect and diagnose disease earlier, treat more effectively, or even prevent or cure disease altogether. And, importantly, new opportunities to make care more efficient and to maximise the impact of health spending.

With digitally enabled and data-driven healthcare and next-generation therapies, we can – at last – start to shift our focus from treating people who are ill to keeping people healthier for longer. After decades of health gains, rising demand for health services, aging populations and financial pressures mean the sustainability of Europe’s health systems is approaching crisis point. The levels of funding required just to maintain health systems at current levels are substantial – 8.5% of GDP on average4, and yet the OECD estimates that as much as 20% of these health budgets are wasted.5 It is clear that real, transformative change is needed – and that many of the enablers of this change are already available.

Health innovation has been one of Europe’s great success stories. But the world has changed, the nature of innovation has changed, and past successes can’t guarantee the future.

Europe has an unrivalled history of making better health possible. For a long time, its well-established health systems, academic centres and scientific leadership made it a go-to destination for health innovation. Penicillin, vaccines, immunology and DNA were all discovered here.

Health innovation has brought investment, jobs and prosperity to Europe, as well as improving people’s health. In 2021 the pharmaceutical industry was the leading driver of the EU trade surplus, contributing €136 billion.6 At Roche, we invest 5.8 billion Swiss Francs in Europe each year while employing over 44,000 people, of whom 25% are in R&D. We are already delivering the latest advances in oncology, immunology, rare conditions, neuroscience, ophthalmology, medical devices, and in-vitro diagnostics to thousands of patients every day, but there is much more that we want to achieve.

It’s a troubling fact that health innovation investment is flowing away from Europe. Twenty years ago, the U.S. attracted €2 billion more investment in research and development than Europe. Today the difference is €25 billion7. While in the 1990s half of new medicines came from Europe, that figure is just one in five today.

The access EU citizens have to healthcare is one of the region’s key strengths – and Europe leads the world when it comes to progress on universal access. As well as celebrating and protecting this achievement, there is an opportunity for stakeholders across Europe to build on it by getting innovations to more patients across the region more quickly.

There is another reason why fast and equitable access across Europe matters. For patients living with serious unmet medical needs, it’s very concerning that Europe’s share of global clinical trials decreased by more than 6% in the 10 years up to 2020.8 If innovations are adopted less quickly in EU countries than elsewhere, the standard of care in these countries won’t reflect new treatments, which may make them less attractive as clinical trial destinations and mean EU patients have fewer opportunities to participate in trials. By working together to modernise regulatory and access frameworks and make sure they are ready for the next generation of therapies and diagnostics, we can pave the way for faster, more equal access across the EU.

Europe is at a crossroads: The EU’s revision of the Pharmaceutical Legislation is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to shape the future of health innovation in Europe and to reduce the research and innovation gaps deepening between the EU on the one hand, the US and Asia on the other.

To create an environment where innovation can truly thrive, Europe needs new legislation that supports robust intellectual property (IP). By the innovation it enables, IP has supported transformational advances in healthcare in Europe for decades. Life expectancy in Europe has risen by up to three decades over the last century. Cancer mortality rate has declined by 21% since its peak in 1991 in Europe and HIV has been transformed from a devastating diagnosis to a manageable disease. Europe’s healthcare ecosystem also played a significant part in meeting the challenges of the COVID pandemic. In the past 30 years alone, more than 1100 new medicines have been introduced in Europe. These medicines have protected, improved and extended many lives.

Along with the European Health Data Space and EU HTA reform, Europe needs legislation that paves the way for the transformative power of digital technology and health data to take effect whilst recognizing the impact of medical innovation to societies. This means working with the industry to ensure we can harness the vast amounts of anonymised data the EHDS will generate to help innovators discover scientific advances that will address areas of highest unmet need in Europe and ensure a recognition model for the value medical innovation and data brings to societies across Europe.

Collaboration is one of Europe’s greatest strengths and all actors – across the public and private sectors – have a stake and a part to play in shaping a strong, innovative health sector to support a strong and healthy Europe.


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