The European Public Health Alliance (EPHA) welcomes Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan as a flagship health initiative that can deliver real added value for Europeans. In response to the consultation on the Roadmap, EPHA highlights the following considerations:
1. The Plan should include a thorough and effective prevention pillar with special attention to tackling challenges common to all non-communicable diseases (NCDs). Cancers and other NCDs, such as cardiovascular disease, respiratory diseases and type 2 diabetes, are to a high degree preventable and share a number of common, modifiable risk factors – especially tobacco and alcohol use, unhealthy food environments, insufficient physical activity and air pollution. These risk factors are best addressed through cross-sectoral, population-based policies and legislation creating health-enabling living environments, rather than through excessive focus on behaviour change interventions which tend to put the burden on individuals. To reduce the incidence of cancers and other NCDs bold action on all the main risk factors will be required.
2. The Plan should prioritise the affordability, accessibility and availability of medicinal products in the field of oncology. Across Europe, unjustifiably high prices of medicines constitute one of the key barriers for patients in having access to cancer treatment. At the same time, it is imperative to evaluate the quality of innovation and to ensure that meaningful, needs-driven (as opposed to profit-driven) innovation reaches the patients. From a patient’s perspective, a drug that sits on a shelf because of its excessive price is not innovation but a mere invention that misses out on societal added value.
3. The Plan should recognise that patients from socially disadvantaged groups face higher rates of NCDs, including cancers, and are exposed to poorer access to healthcare and preventive services. As a consequence, survival rates among vulnerable groups are lower compared to population groups having a better socio-economic status. Therefore, prevention measures, as well as measures for early diagnosis should take into consideration the socio-economic dimension of cancer in order guarantee the access to appropriate services for the most vulnerable, including availability and affordability.
4. The Plan should recognise the importance of fighting antimicrobial resistance (AMR) as antibiotic resistant bacteria could threaten cancer care and its effectiveness. Immuno-compromised patients such as cancer patients rely on antibiotics for infection prevention and treatment, and thus have a higher risk of developing resistance. Such resistance can have detrimental consequences especially since bacterial infections are one of the most common complications among cancer patients following radiation therapy and chemotherapy.
5. The Plan should contribute to the EU’s health in all policies mandate and should be effectively mainstreamed in other EU policies, including industrial, agriculture, transport and trade. It should consider introducing a monitoring and reporting mechanism about the measures taken in other policy areas to turn Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan into a success.
6. The Plan should recognise that cancer survivorship can have an impact on patients’ mental health and this should be considered and linked to the EU’s actions on mental health.
7. The Plan should be accompanied by meaningful funding streams and should ensure positive synergies with the work done under the Cancer Mission Board.