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European health organisations call for greater Community support for health research in the 7th Research Framework Programme

At a debate entitled “What place and priorities for European health research?” held in the European Parliament on 9 Amrch 2006, MEPs and health research stakeholders emphasised the need for a more visible place of health research on the EU research agenda in order to tackle national research deficiencies.

The debate, organised by the European League against Rheumatism (EULAR) on the occasion of the 3rd Europe-wide action day Alliance Against Arthritis and hosted by Lithuanian MEP Dr. Jolanta Dičkutě, was attended by the Health Minister of Lithuania Mr Zilvinas Padaiga and a large number of representatives of the European Parliament and other EU institutions. In the middle of the ongoing negotiations on the 7th Research Framework Programme the participants the criticised the lack of in-depth discussions in the EU on health research and the future health priorities. They called on the EU Institutions not to reduce funding earmarked for health research in the new program. Dičkutě, Member of the European Parliament from Lithuania underlined: “There is no doubt that health is of utmost importance for European citizens. The Community should make a priority of these areas where it can clearly demonstrate that it is able to change people’s lives for better and health should be one of these areas.” The participants in the meeting called for support of activities that correspond to the major needs and health threats in Europe. It should further support medical fields where research efforts are insufficient at the national level. Not least, the EU should pay much greater attention to research in diseases with high prevalence and which are major cause of social costs as well as of disability which lead to substantial losses in European competitiveness. Lithuanian health minister Padaiga said research in many diseases in Europe was highly fragmented and relied to a very high extent on international cooperation and on international multi-centre trials to achieve the required number of patients in a short period of time. Therefore, cooperation at European level was essential to achieve the breakthroughs hoped for in many medical areas. Prof. Kvien, EULAR President, warned that European research as a whole was exposed to severe competition coming not only from America but increasingly also from Asia and other developing regions. Prof. Josef Smolen, Past President of EULAR said: “The European Union should make utmost efforts to keep excellence in research and researchers in Europe and stop regarding investments in health as a burden.” He called on the European Parliament to insist on as much money as possible for FP7 and for maintaining the amount foreseen by the Commission for health research in its initial proposal. He concluded: “Defending these positions, the European Parliament should not feel alone, but can fully rely on the support of EULAR and other European scientists’ organisations.”

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