Opening Speech FIP Congres/Ministers Summit

Distinguished guests, first I would like to welcome you all here today in the city of Amsterdam, on this beautiful location. The reason we have gathered here is to discuss a very important topic, being The responsible use of medicines. Why I find this topic of the utmost importance I will explain in a short while, but first let me thank you for accepting my invitation to attend this meeting, especially those of you who traveled from very far.

I would like to welcome in particular Ms. Carissa Etienne from the World Health Organisation who will chair the morning session and Mr. David Byrne, former EU Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection, who will chair the afternoon session. I also express a warm welcome to my distinguished colleagues, the Ministers of Health and their delegates from the invited countries. I shouldn’t forget of course to welcome and thank also the members of the panel and the representatives of FIP, WHO, IMS and Utrecht University.

Tomorrow, the International Pharmaceutical Federation will start its Centennial congress, also here in The Netherlands, the country where the organization was founded exactly one hundred years ago. And what tremendous progress in the field of medicines the world has seen in those hundred years. Many diseases that once were deadly, can now easily be treated. Some diseases were eradicated all together. The result is that worldwide the health of many has improved and life expectancy has risen . So, ladies and gentlemen, let me start today by expressing my respect and thankfulness to all those people who have helped developing our worldwide healthcare to the point where we are today.

But what is our position today? Of course development and research are very important issues, I will not doubt thát for one second, but at this point we also need to think about how we are using all the possibilities we have created for ourselves. How can we make responsible use of all those medicines? How do we make sure that doctors do not do more nor less than is really needed and that the right medicine is prescribed to the right patient, in the right dose, and during the right period of time? And how do we make sure that patients adhere to their prescribed medication? These are questions we need to address more and more in the coming years.

Ladies and gentlemen, I believe that responsible use of medicines will yield many benefits both in the short term and in the long term. There will be benefits to individual patients, benefits to society and - as is clear from the available data in the technical reports – also ‘benefits’ to our healthcare budgets. As I already said, healthcare is very successful worldwide, but we need to make sure that we continue to be able to afford this good healthcare. Responsible use of medicines is a key-factor in managing our healthcare costs.

Ladies and gentlemen,

This brings me to a very important example when speaking about responsible use of medicines, and that is the use of antibiotics. Especially in the field of antibiotics, it is of the utmost importance that we come to a strict international policy. Nowadays, antibiotics are prescribed too often irresponsibly to humans , but, also very important, in the farming-industry. As minister I have travelled to many countries and have seen that this is truly a world-wide problem. In all these countries, people are trying to tackle this problem, but international cooperation regarding this urgent problem is vital.

Therefore I would like to take this opportunity to urge us all to come to start an international discussion on using antibiotics much more selective. Making sure that antibiotics are only available through prescription by a doctor. And that those doctors do not prescribe antibiotics in every single, small, unnecessary case. That we do not use it in mass amounts for livestock. And in cases where it is really needed to prescribe, making sure that the patient finishes the treatment as intended. In this, all the pharmacists that will convene her in the next days, can play a very important role.

Irresponsible use of antibiotics is not only a waste, it is simply dangerous for human health. The level of resistance of bacteria is rising and could cause major problems. What do we do when the available antibiotics have become ineffective and no new antibiotics are developed? That is a question we never want to face.

For that reason I would like to urge you all to use the newly developed ‘last resort’ antibiotics only in cases where it is of the biggest importance. This means that we should use new generation antibiotics very reticent, when no other options are left. This is vital for our future safety.

As a small country, The Netherlands tries to play its part in combating antibiotics resistance, but we can only succeed if we work together. The European Union for example has, in cooperation with pharmaceutical industry, taken up this challenge. We have created a Union-wide action plan to decrease the use of antibiotics in both humans and the veterinary sector. The EU recently made funds available for research and development in the area of new antibiotics. I hope that these examples will be followed by world-wide actions. It is of the biggest importance that we tackle this problem worldwide, together.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Today, we will hear about experiences from many countries worldwide, regarding practical steps to improve the responsible use of medicines. During the panel debate this morning we will hear how relevant stakeholders see their respective role in realizing this goal. This afternoon, - in a closed session with the Ministers and their delegates – we will discuss how to make progress in the responsible use of medicines and which practical steps might be helpful in our respective countries. I hope that we all, including myself, can learn from each other today, during the morning and during the afternoon. Each of us, naturally, take into account the differences between our countries.

Let me conclude by wishing us all today good and open discussions regarding the theme of the Summit. We may return home then with the sense of having spent a very useful and hopefully also pleasant day, here in Amsterdam!

Thank you for your attention.