First EU citizens using ePrescriptions in other EU country

Today, the first EU patients can use digital prescriptions issued by their home doctor when visiting a pharmacy in another EU country: Finnish patients are now able to go to a pharmacy in Estonia and retrieve medicine prescribed electronically by their doctor in Finland.

The initiative applies to all ePrescriptions prescribed in Finland and to the Estonian pharmacies that have signed the agreement. The novelty of this initiative is that the ePrescriptions are visible electronically to participating pharmacists in the receiving country via the new eHealth Digital Service Infrastructure, without the patient having to provide a written prescription. This is in line with our policy on Digital Health and Care, which aims to empower patients by giving access to their health data and ensuring continuity of care.

Source: European Commission – PRESS RELEASES – Press release – First EU citizens using ePrescriptions in other EU country

Rare diseases in the Finnish landscape

Health Europa introduces the New Modalities Ecosystem, which will exploit Finnish expertise to deliver new treatments and technologies for rare diseases.

The New Modalities Ecosystem – launched by Orion and supported by Business Finland – brings academia together with industry to hep improve understanding of disease pathology and contribute to the development of better treatments, beginning with rare diseases that are part of the Finnish disease heritage, i.e. genetic diseases that are significantly more common in Finland than they are in any other population.

One such disease is mitochondrial recessive ataxia syndrome (MIRAS), which is defined by Orphanet as a ‘rare mitochondrial DNA maintenance syndrome characterised by early-onset cerebellar ataxia, and variable combination of epilepsy, headache, dysarthria, ophthalmoplegia, peripheral neuropathy, intellectual disability, psychiatric symptoms and movement disorders’.

To read more about this on the Health Europa website, go to:

Learning from the Estonian e-health system

Estonia’s Minister of Health and Labour Riina Sikkut tells Health Europa what we can learn from the Estonian e-health system.

The Estonian e-health system is among the world’s most ambitious and a clear example of why this small EU country is widely hailed as one of the most advanced digital nations on the planet. Already, more than 95% of the data generated by hospitals and doctors has been digitised, and citizens can enjoy easy access to their own medical records, prescriptions, and the most suitable health professional.

Source: Learning from the Estonian e-health system

Gates Foundation & EU support health services in Africa

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will contribute €54 million ($62.5 million) to EU efforts to strengthen diagnostic health services in Sub-Saharan Africa under the External Investment Plan.

This cooperation will help to mobilise private investment in laboratory facilities providing timely, cost-effective and accurate diagnostic services for diseases such as tuberculosis, HIV, and malaria, as well as support maternal and child healthcare. This will allow doctors to detect diseases earlier, respond faster and better targeting treatments.

To read more about this on the European Commission website go to: European Commission – PRESS RELEASES – Press release – EU and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation join forces to support health services in Africa

Colour-coded food labels in Belgium

Belgium will adopt the French ‘Nutri-Score’ food labelling system. Under the voluntary system, food will be given a letter and corresponding colour from dark green (a) to dark red (F). The letters awarded are determined by an assessment of sugars, saturated fatty acids, salt, calories, fruits, vegetables, fibre and protein.

To see more details (in French) of the French food labelling system



Challenges in long-term care in Europe

A new study, which includes country reports and a synthesis report, provides a brief description of the main features of the national long-term care systems in 35 European countries.

The synthesis report presents a comparative analysis of the national long-term care systems. It identifies national reforms aimed at tackling these challenges and presents a brief overview of national long-term care indicators. It also puts forward a number of recommendations to deal with the four identified challenges:

  • access to and adequacy of long-term care provisions,
  • issues related to the employment situation of carers,
  • the quality of LTC provision and jobs, and
  • the financial sustainability of national long-term care provisions.

To read the report on long-term care


European Cancer Information System

ECIS provides the latest information on indicators that quantify the cancer burden across Europe. It permits the exploration of geographical patterns and temporal trends of incidence, mortality and survival data across Europe for the major cancer entities.

The purpose of the web-application is to support research as well as public-health decision-making in the field of cancer and to serve as a point of reference and information for European citizens.

For more information, go to ECIS

Pharmaceutical spending

Pharmaceutical spending accounts for approximately 20% of total health spending in OECD countries when taking into account medicines dispensed in both outpatient and inpatient settings of care. Recent developments in the pharmaceutical market and spending raise concerns for the future:

  • Spending has become increasingly skewed toward high-cost “specialty medicines” which now account for between 30% and 50% of spend and this percentage will increase in future
  • Launch prices of new medicines have been soaring in some therapeutic categories – in the US the prices of new cancer medicines now typically exceed USD 10,000 per month and one was launched at USD 64,000 per month. The prices of orphan medicines are also very high
  • New hepatitis C treatments, which represent a real breakthrough for patients, have been launched at a list price of up to USD 84,000. They were assessed as cost-effective at this price although the company recouped 25 times the initial outlay in R&D in less than two years

The OECD is preparing a study that will focus on therapeutic areas where new medicines are very costly and/or have a high budget impact for health systems, such as oncology, rare diseases, HIV, Hepatitis C, diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease. The overall objective is to improve patient access to innovative treatments and ensure the sustainability of health spending as well as continued innovation that meets patient needs.

To read more about the study on the OECD website, go to: Pharmaceuticals 

Health workforce

The capacity of health systems to deliver health services and meet the changing demands of care strongly depends on the availability of a workforce with the right skills and flexibility. Health systems that support high levels of initial education and training, as well as consistent investment in continuous professional development, are better equipped to develop innovative and integrated solutions to respond to the major challenges they face.

The EU has published a report highlighting the importance of promoting reforms aimed at tackling critical health workforce issues such as supply, distribution and a traditional skill mix, in order to strengthen prevention, primary care and integrated service delivery.

To read the full report ‘The State of Health in the EU’ on the European Commission website go to

Germany debates opt-out system for organ donations

Germany’s Health Minister Jens Spahn is pushing for the country to adopt an opt-out policy for organ donations as the number of donors sink to its lowel-ever level.

In an interview with Germany’s Bild newspaper on Sunday, Spahn declared himself in favour of an opt-out scheme for organ donation which would make organ harvesting and transplanting automatic unless people register their wish not to donate.

“We should have this discussion in the Bundestag now,” Spahn told the tabloid. “That’s where this topics belongs.”

The health minister made his announcement after introducing a draft bill to reform the system, warning that one patient on the organ waiting-list dies every eight hours.

To read more about this on the Euronews website go to: