The communication experts from EU medicines agencies met at regular presidency meeting to discuss possibilities how to strengthen the links between medicines agencies and representatives from patient organizations and stakeholders. 

From 26th to 28th October 2016, the State Institute for Drug Control (SIDC) hosted the meeting of the Working Group of Communication Professionals (WGCP). The meeting was held in Slovakia as part of the programme of the EU Presidency. More than 30 representatives, working as communication experts in EU medicines agencies, arrived to Bratislava to share their best practices and spoke about the improvement of communication activities towards the patients, HCPs and industry.

The WGCP meeting started by informal welcome dinner which was organized on 26th October 2016 in Austria Trend Hotel Bratislava. The official part of the conference was held from 27th to 28th October 2016 in a historical building of the National Council at Zupne namestie which is located in the centre of the Slovak capital.

The official part of the meeting was opened by Valeria Pernisova, a Slovak member of WGCP. The representatives of the working group were also welcomed by Zuzana Batova, a new Executive Director of the SIDC. Both speakers warmly welcomed participants and wished them successful and fruitful work in the following two days.

The agenda of the meeting was mainly centred on key priorities set out in Multi-Annual Work Plan (MAWP) – document that was adopted in February 2016 as a platform for HMA strategy for 2016-2020. This paper reviews the objectives, actions and estimated communication resources to deliver the priorities. The role of the WGCP, related to MAWP, focuses mainly on international collaboration, optimisation of the regulatory operations and support for better use of medicines.

“Effective communication and sharing of information across the network is essential for the delivery of the objectives set out in Multi-Annual Work Plan. During the WGCP meeting in Bratislava we made a big progress. We were discussing how to improve communication tools for patients and HCPs, how to improve the involvement of stakeholders and how to develop more streamlined mechanisms to obtain regular feedback from industry,” said Rachel Bosworth, the chair of the working group.

The members also discussed the mechanism for making the role of the HMA more visible. The question was raised related to what information should be interesting for media and stakeholders and which channels should be used for sharing the information.

As a next part of the agenda, the Slovak representatives informed the participants about the communication activities at national level related to problem with unavailability of medicines. This issue was set out as one out of key priorities of the EU Slovak Presidency, especially because Slovakia has been handling this problem since 2013 what led to high media and public interest.

Delegates have been informed about the preparations for SCOPE campaign which is going to be launched in EU member states on 7-11 November 2016. The campaign is a part of SCOPE programme (Strengthening Collaboration for Operating Pharmacovigilance in Europe) focused on activities for encouraging patients and HCPs to report adverse reactions possible caused by medicines.

The meeting was also attended by representatives from Slovak Chamber of Pharmacists and Faculty of Pharmacy at Comenius University in Bratislava who presented about the public campaigns launched in 2016. Within the framework of the Year of a Pharmacist as Helping Profession, Slovak Chamber of Pharmacists and Faculty of Pharmacy have collaborated on public information campaigns focusing on three areas: pharmacotherapy of breastfeeding women, pharmacotherapy of children and medicines at home.

Delegates shared their experiences with using the PRAC and CMDh press releases for local communication activities and informed about how they communicate drug recalls at national level.

The State Institute for Drug Control hosted the WGCP meeting for the first time. We would like to thank to all participants for coming, sharing their work experiences and giving some proposals for future collaboration.

About WGCP:

The Working Group of Communication Professionals (WGCP) was established in 2007 by the Heads of Medicines Agencies (HMA) to help develop communications expertise, share good practice, help co-ordinate communications across the HMA network in a crisis, develop HMA’s engagement with its stakeholders and help develop and improve the website for the HMA.

The WGCP supports the work of the European Regulatory medicines network (ERMN) in regard to public health and animal health and welfare. The WGCP stimulates communications and gives strategic advices on how to communicate with HMA an NCA’s stakeholders (e.g. patients, physicians, veterinarians, pharmaceutical industry, and other healthcare professionals) and the general public (including the media).