WHO identifies four sectors responsible for 2.7 million deaths in Europe


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In its latest report, the World Health Organisation (WHO) highlights what it terms, ‘commercial determinants of health’ (CDOH), expanding the scope of risk factors. 

The WHO took a broader-based approach to social and environmental factors which goes beyond the usual suspects of tobacco and alcohol, adding ultra-processed foods and fossil fuels companies to their list of companies that should be treated with caution.

At today’s launch, Belgian Deputy Prime Minister Frank Vandenbrouke, who is responsible for health, said: “We need to reframe the problem as a systemic problem, where policy has to counter ‘hyper-consumption environments’, marketing and stop interference in policy making.”

Vandenbrouke is no stranger to the problem: He is one of the main actors in the so-called ‘Hamburger war of Terveuren’, not ruling out legislation if necessary to stop fast-food establishments from being allowed to create outlets close to schools. 

The WHO has identified four sectors that are responsible for 2.7 million deaths in the Europe region, which goes beyond the EU’s boundaries and covers 53 states. 

“Industry tactics include exploitation of vulnerable people through targeted marketing strategies, misleading consumers and making false claims about the benefits of products, including environmental credentials”, said the WHO’s Regional Director for Europe Hans Kluge.

David versus Goliath

The WHO paints a picture that pits those trying to protect public health against the Goliath of commercial interests, which capture governments, use the media, have outsized marketing budgets, seed doubt, or deflect, saying these questions are merely questions of personal choice. 

The WHO, in effect, questions whether commercial actors should have any role in health policymaking, an approach that differs from the EU’s, where a broad range of stakeholders are consulted on these issues.

False equivalence

Rebeca Fernández, science director at FoodDrinkEurope, said it was “irresponsible and outrageously misleading” to equate processed foods with the tobacco and fossil fuel industries, stressing that there is no agreed definition of ultra-processed foods.

“Food and drink makers here in Europe are playing their part by reformulating products to cut salt, fat, and sugars whilst boosting fibre and micronutrients, all the while providing more nutritious offerings that deliver health benefits,” said Fernández.

European elections: Familiar faces return to the fray

As the dust settles on this weekend’s elections, we can already welcome back some familiar faces.

Tiemo Wölken (S&D, Germany), one of two MEPs who led on the Pharma Package, returns; Tomislav Sokol (EPP, Croatia) who steered the European Health Data Space Regulation to a safe landing, will also be back; and perhaps, most surprisingly of all, former health commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis (S&D, Lithuania) will take up a seat. 

Andriukaitis, who has been away from European affairs over the last year, has championed health issues through the wide-ranging, ‘All Policies for a Healthy Europe’ network.

HERA announces joint procurement of H5 targeted vaccine

The Commission’s Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Authority (HERA) announced on Tuesday (11 June) that it has procured  665,000 pre-pandemic vaccine doses of the up-to-date CSLSeqirus vaccine, as well as an option for a further 40 million doses over four years. The vaccine is targeted at H5 strains of avian influenza.

Sharp rise in mosquito-borne disease

The European Centre for Disease Control (ECDC) reports that cases of mosquito-borne diseases are rising dramatically due to climate change. 

The ECDC recommends mosquito-control measures, such as removing stagnant water from gardens, wearing clothes that cover most of the body, and using mosquito netting and window screens.

Antimicrobial-resistant gonorrhoea on the rise

The ECDC published a report highlighting the rise of multi-drug and extensive-drug-resistant gonorrhoea, severely limiting treatment options available. The sexually transmitted disease is on the rise and while most infections remain treatable, vigilance is called for.

EMA adopts two pilots to improve the quality of clinical trials 

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) has launched two advice pilots as part of the Accelerating Clinical Trails in the EU (ACT EU) initiative. The first pilot consolidates scientific advice on trials and requirements for marketing authorization. The second provides technical and regulatory support from member states on pre-submission topics.

UK ‘Cancer Vaccine Launch Pad’ takes off

The UK Cancer Vaccine Launch Pad (CVLP) platform has treated its first patient with a personalised vaccine against bowel cancer. The CVLP speeds up access to messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) in personalised cancer vaccine clinical trials for people diagnosed with cancer. The majority of participants are expected to be enrolled from 2026 onwards.


Today’s edition is powered by the European Federation of Associations of Health Product Manufacturers 

Read EHPM 2024-2029 manifesto 

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Pertussis cases soar in France, rise in Europe

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News from the capitals

Whooping cough incidence in Sweden is on the rise. The Swedish chief epidemiologist advises parents to keep their babies away from people with cold symptoms – similar trends are now seen in other parts of Europe. Read more.


Swedish medicines regulator seeks stronger mandate to combat drug shortages. The Swedish Medical Products Agency is seeking a new mandate to address drug shortages. Among other responsibilities, it wants to be in charge of redistributing critical medicines to pharmacies and setting up a situational awareness system based on stock and sales data. Read more.


New Czech Medicines Act takes force, boosting pharma efficency, tackling shortages. 
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Belgium’s fragmented healthcare system facing reorganisation.

Belgium’s political landscape is undergoing a reshuffle, raising critical questions about how the new Belgian government will address the fragmented state of healthcare. Re-federalisation of the healthcare system is an idea gaining traction. Read more.

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The future of Belgium’s pharmaceutical industry is under scrutiny as competition challenges Belgian success. Leading Belgian politicians discussed revamping pharma’s road map in a recent conversation with Euractiv. Read more.


Hungarian hospitals drowning in debt, suppliers risk bankruptcy, services compromised. 

Hospitals in Hungary are sounding alarm as rising debts restrict operations, with officials reporting there are very few medical interventions for which the available funding provides sufficient financial coverage. Read more.


Slovak candidates contest EU health vision, pharma package central to concerns

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Warsaw reallocates drug production funds, provokes pharma industry criticism

The Polish government has reallocated €139.5 million from the National Recovery Plan (KPO) to support the zero-emission economy. The move upset the Polish pharmaceutical sector as the funds were originally intended for drug production. Read more.

On the Agenda Health

12 June – Launch WHO/Europe report on commercial determinants of non-communicable diseases.

12-13 June – Belgian Presidency: ‘Roadmap on carcinogens’ in Brussels

21 June – Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council (Health): Ministers will discuss regulatory incentives proposed in the Pharmaceutical Package; will seek to adopt a recommendation on vaccine-preventable cancers; and will approve conclusions on the future of the European Health Union.

*Health reporters Clara Bauer-Babef and Haven Dager contributed to this brief

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]

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