The Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council (EPSCO) met on 7 and 8 October for the last time under the Estonian presidency. The health and social ministers agreed to the following outcomes:
Pharmaceutical policy in the EU
The Estonian presidency continued the exchange of ideas on the current state and future perspectives of pharmaceutical policy. There was particular need to discuss supply shortages in some Member States and the pricing of medicines. The ministers discussed which measures are needed in addition to voluntary cooperation between Member States in order to achieve a comprehensive approach to balancing pharmaceutical systems in the EU.
Council conclusions on digital health
The council adopted conclusions on ‘Health in the Digital Society – making progress in data-driven innovation in the field of health’. The Member States agreed to the joint development and implementation of interoperable national infrastructures for jointly using and exchanging health data. In addition, Member States should do more to exchange experiences; for example, Member States such as Finland and Estonia can pass on their good practices regarding digitalisation.
Council conclusions on alcohol policy
The Council also adopted conclusions on ‘cross-border aspects in alcohol policy – tackling harmful use of alcohol’. Emphasis was placed on better cross-border cooperation in the trade of alcohol, reducing alcohol advertising and introducing mandatory labelling of alcoholic beverages with a list of ingredients. Several Member States reported that their national pricing and distribution strategies are being compromised in the Single Market due to alcoholic beverages being purchased in other Member States.
Partial general approach to coordination of social security systems
In reviewing EU legislation on the coordination of social security systems, Member States have made progress and adopted a partial general approach. Under the Estonian presidency, the regulations on long-term care and family benefits were discussed. For example, benefits for those requiring long-term care should have their own definition. The proposed rules for long-term care follow the principles applicable to coordinating sickness benefits.