Europe's failing healthcare system

We live in an age of unprecedented medical innovation. Unfortunately, most of today's cutting-edge research is conducted outside Europe, which was once a pioneer in this field, says Daniele Capezzone, president of the productivity committee of the Italian Chamber of Deputies.


  • About 78 per cent of global biotechnology research funds are spent in the United States, compared to just 16 per cent in Europe, giving Americans better access to modern drugs.

  • One result is that in the United States, the annual death rate from cancer is 196 per 100,000 people, compared to 235 in Britain, 244 in France, 270 in Italy and 273 in Germany.

    The human toll can be measured in deaths and unnecessary suffering. It also costs Europeans a lot of money. Prevention is cheaper than treatment. This situation is especially dire in Italy, says Capezzone:

  • The government has capped spending on pharmaceuticals at 13 per cent of total health-care expenditures while letting expenses for infrastructure and staff skyrocket.

  • From 2001 to 2005, general health expenses in Italy grew by 31 per cent while expenditure on medicines increased a mere 1.7 per cent.

  • Italian patients might well have been better off if the reverse was the case, but the state bureaucrats who make these decisions refuse to acknowledge the benefits of advanced drugs.

    It is both a tragedy and an embarrassment that Europe hasn't kept up with the America in saving and improving lives. What's to blame? The Continent's misguided policies and state-run health-care systems, says Capezzone. The reasons vary from country to country, but broadly speaking, the custodians of public health budgets aren't devoting the necessary resources to get patients the most modern and advanced medicines, and are happier with the status quo.

    Source: Daniele Capezzone, Sicko Europe, Wall Street Journal, August 3, 2007.

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    For more on International Issues:

    FMF Policy Bulletin/ 07 August 2007
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