Press Release

Minister Harris attends EPSCO Informal Meeting of EU Health Ministers in Bratislava

Minister for Health Simon Harris today (3rd October) attended an informal meeting of EU Health Ministers where he also had one to one meetings with Health and Food Safety Commissioner Andriukatis; Swedish Minister for Health and Sport, Gabriel Wikstrom; Dutch Minister for Health, Welfare and Sport, Edith Schippers and UK Minister for Public Health, David Prior.

The Minister had discussions on areas of common interest and opportunities for collaboration. In particular EU Ministers for Health were anxious to discuss and explore ways to ensure greater affordability and better access to medical products.

Minister Harris met with EU Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, Vytenis Andriukaitis. During the meeting he thanked him for his full support for the Irish (Public
Health) Alcohol Bill and stated that he was very much looking forward to working closely with the Commissioner on an enhanced public health agenda over the coming years.

Minister Harris also raised the particular implications for Ireland, of the UK’s decision to leave the EU. In this context Minister Harris referenced the relocation of the European Medicines Agency currently located in London.

The Minister said; ‘Ensuring continuity of and minimising disruption to the work of the Agency when it relocates is essential. A move to Dublin provides a sound, sustainable base for the EMA’s current standards of excellence’.

The Minister emphasised Ireland’s position as a leading location for existing pharmaceutical industry in the EU with nine out of the ten largest pharmaceutical companies in the world operating out of Ireland. Ireland also has a strong track record in the research and development field, as well as a highly regarded national medicines regulator in the Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA), which already contributes significantly to the work of the EMA.

During a discussion on reducing the levels of salt, saturated fats and sugar in food, Minister Harris outlined Ireland’s new obesity policy and action plan ‘A Healthy Weight for Ireland’.

“Food product improvement will make it easier for people to make healthy choices and help in tackling rising levels of overweight and obesity.” ‘A Healthy Weight for Ireland’ includes a commitment to agree food reformulation targets with the food industry and to establish a forum for engagement with industry on best practice initiatives towards a healthy food environment. I look forward to working on this with my colleague, Minister Corcoran Kennedy”

Minister Harris also welcomed proposals for EU member states to work together to address the issue of medicines shortages. Medicines shortages are caused by a number of factors and can have a significant impact. The Minister reaffirmed Ireland’s support for collaborative approaches to prevent medicines shortages occurring.

Minister Harris also took the opportunity to meet with Lord Prior with the focus on the impact of Brexit and how to ensue continued collaboration on health issues in the of patients on the two Islands.