Public health threats
The European Medicines Agency (EMA) is committed to supporting global efforts to respond to existing and emerging public health threats, such as antimicrobial resistance, falsified medicines, biological and chemical threats and emergencies such as outbreaks or pandemics. The Agency has a number of mechanisms in place to contribute to global responses to such challenges.
EMA has developed a health threats plan describing how the Agency operates during an emerging health threat, allowing for a rapid and efficient response:
- EMA plan for emerging health threats
- Annex to EMA plan for emerging health threats: health threat plan map
The plan sets out the roles and responsibilities of EMA's scientific committees and staff during a public health threat.
The overall aim of the plan is to:
- initiate and coordinate scientific and regulatory activities by involving all interested parties at EMA and in the European medicines regulatory network, including expert groups, national competent authorities and the European Commission, as well as the European Centre for Disease Control (ECDC) and Official Medicines Control Laboratories (OMCLs), where relevant;
- manage and coordinate discussions on the development, authorisation and surveillance of medicines to be used to address the health threat;
- provide EU partners the outcome of the review of medicines;
- provide support to international partners, stakeholders involved in the research and development of medicines and to public health authorities outside Europe, for example the World Health Organization (WHO).
The plan also describes EMA's communication with the EU Member States, international partners, stakeholders and the public in the event of a crisis.
It also covers operational aspects such as providing rapid scientific advice for products under development and fast-track approval of medicines such as vaccines and antivirals to prevent or treat a disease caused by an emerging virus.
Planning for, responding to and communicating on serious health threats is a priority in the EU Medicines Agencies Network Strategy to 2020 and complements ongoing European Commission initiatives in this area.
EMA can bring together and support groups of European experts with specialised knowledge in areas such as antimicrobial resistance, biological and chemical agents used maliciously, infectious diseases, vaccines and clinical trial design to contribute to a global response to public health threats.
These groups can also give advice to medicine or vaccine developers on scientific and regulatory matters.
EMA can mobilise a number of tools to help speed up the development of medicines and vaccines in the event of an emerging threat or an outbreak, depending on the circumstances. These include:
- providing guidance and scientific advice on the tests and studies needed to develop new medicines such as antimicrobial treatments and medicines or vaccines to combat an outbreak;
- encouraging new approaches by organising scientific workshops and publishing reflection papers;
- issuing opinions on medicines intended for use outside the European Union (EU) under the 'Article 58' procedure;
- using orphan designation.
EMA is committed to establishing close contact with developers of treatments or vaccines for emerging health threats.
EMA works closely with European and international partners, including the European Commission, World Health Organization and European Union agencies, including the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, to address existing and emerging threats as well as during public health emergencies.
The Agency also cooperates with international anti-counterfeiting trade agreements and other criminal-law instruments, such as the Council of Europe's Medicrime convention and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) project on counterfeiting and piracy.