Thursday, May 28, 2015

What happened at eHealth Week 2015 in Riga?

A total of 1334 eHealth experts and 81 exhibitors from across Europe gathered in Riga to exchange knowledge and share best practices as part of the annual eHealth Week conference and exhibition. The presentation slides, photo's and Commissioner Andriukaitis' speech are now available.

The event kicked off with a VIP Exhibition Tour and a Press Conference, led by three representatives: Dr. Guntis Belēvičs, Minister for Health of Latvia, Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis and H. Stephen Lieber, CEO of HIMSS. Afterwards they opened the conference together with keynote speaker Toomas H.Ilves, President of the Republic of Estonia.
In his speechCommissioner Andriukaitis highlighted the timely release of the Digital Single Market: "We must seize the Digital Single Market opportunities to fulfill a vision for healthcare in the 21st century – a vision of a single, universally accessible, sustainable and high quality, eHealth single market for the benefit of all European citizens and healthcare professionals".
He also highlighted the importance of eHealth Week: "By coming together at events such as this and by sharing experiences in the Member States and at EU level, we will drive forward the case for eHealth".

eHealth frontrunner

According to President Ilves, Estonia has been a frontrunner in eHealth: Nearly all prescriptions are issued electronically, and two-thirds of hospitals use eHealth technologies in some way.
Politico magazine wrote that Ilves touted Estonia as a model of how IT in preventive and treatment services can "improve both the welfare of patients and the healthcare system in general." But more widely across Europe, "healthcare is lagging ten years behind when compared to other industries," he said.

Increasing dynamism of EU economy

Head of Unit for eHealth & Wellbeing Pēteris Zilgalvis (European Commission), who was also in Riga, said: "Digital solutions can increase the dynamism of the European economy and deliver benefits to EU citizens." For him, the conference offered the chance to explore how mobile health and eHealth can help EU citizens manage their own health by empowering them, as well "ensuring the sustainability of our health care systems."
During the event, the Nordic countries revealed interesting findings and next steps for them in terms of eHealth. Finland, for instance, announced they will be switching off paper-based prescriptions by 2017, as they “have reached nearly 100% coverage with electronic prescriptions now”, according to Maritta Korhonen, Head of Development in the Finnish Ministry of Social Affairs and Health.

Real impact

Paul Timmers, Director for Digital Society, Trust and Security (DG CONNECT, European Commission), who spoke during the closing plenary said he was rooting for a European eHealth Community which can turn actions into tangible results with real impact for patients. He said: "I am glad to see that the eHealth community is committed to deliver results with real influence in terms of healthier citizens, more efficient and better healthcare services and economic growth and jobs. By joining up forces and learning from each other we can deliver a social and economic return on digital investment in health and social care".

2016: Amsterdam

eHealth Week 2015 concluded with an invitation to join next year’s edition in Amsterdam, during the week of 6 June, in The Netherlands, the country which at that time will be holding the Presidency of the Council of the European Union.

More information:


Digital-agenda for Europe

Saturday, May 09, 2015

Cannabidiol Given Orphan Drug Designation for NHIE by the FDA

The drug Cannabidiol was recently granted orphan drug designation by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of children with neonatal hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (NHIE).1
Neonatal deprivation of oxygen during the birth process can lead to the acute or sub-acute brain injury known as NHIE.1 In the US, the incidence of NHIE is 1.5 to 2.8 per 1,000 births.1   Inflammatory cytokines, oxidative stress, and cell death all play a role in the disease pathology.2 Affected infants may show loss muscle tone, seizures, poor feeding, and a depressed level of consciousness.2  Around 35% of these infants to die in early life, and 30% may suffer from permanent disability.1  Currently, there are no effective FDA-approved medications to treat the condition.1
Cannabidiol is a non-psychoactive ingredient in cannabis. It is one of a group of compounds, the cannabinoids, which mediate their effects through the cannabinoid receptors. 3 Several studies have highlighted the potential of cannabinoids as neuroprotective treatments in ischemic brain damage, perhaps partly because of their anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.4
Since 2008, GW has been researching the neuroprotective effects of Cannabidiol in animal models of NHIE. This work has shown that Cannabidiol reduces neurologic disability in several models of newborn animal brain hypoxia. GW expects to submit an Investigational New Drug Application (IND) in mid-2015 for their intravenous formulation of CBD. The company expects to begin a Phase 1 trial in the second half of this year.1

"This orphan drug designation for Cannabidiol for the treatment of newborn children with neonatal hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy follows several years of pre-clinical evaluation," GW’s Chief Executive Officer, Justin Gover, stated in a press release.1 Potentially, Cannabidiol might be approved for orphan drug status for other uncommon medical conditions, especially those with an inflammatory component.3 Mr. Grover also noted, “GW continues to explore the opportunity for the development of cannabinoids in rare pediatric conditions characterized by significant unmet need.”1


  1. GW Pharmaceuticals receives orphan drug designation from FDA for Cannabidiol for the treatment of neonatal hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy [press release]. Published April 24, 2015. Accessed May 3, 2015.
  2. Fatemi A, Wilson MA, Johnston MV. Hypoxic ischemia encephalopathy in the term infant. Clin Perinatol. 2009;36(4):834-838. Accessed May 3, 2015.
  3. Nagarkatti P, Pandey R, Rieder SA, Hegde V, Nagarkatti M. Cannabinoids as novel anti-inflammatory drugs. Future Med Chem. 2009;1(7):1333-1349. Accessed May 3, 2015.
  4. Alvarez FJ, Lafuente H, Rey-Santano MC, et al. Neuroprotective effects of the nonpsychoactive cannabinoid cannabidiol in hypoxic-ischemic newborn piglets. Pediatr Res. 2008;64:653-658. Accessed May 3, 2015.


Friday, May 01, 2015

The Government of Ireland has approved a new Bill to provide a Universal GP service

Minister for Health Leo Varadkar and Minister of State for Primary & Social Care Kathleen Lynch have received Cabinet approval for the Health (General Practitioner Service) Bill 2015, and agreement that the Bill should be published and introduced to the Oireachtas.

This phase in the introduction of a universal GP service for the whole population will see free GP services extended to all persons over the age of 70, regardless of income or means. In tandem with separate plans for the under-sixes, this will ensure that the youngest and the oldest have access to GP care without fees. This is a significant step on the way towards universal health care,Minister Varadkar said.

Minister Lynch welcomed the Government decision saying:

The first two phases covering the over-70s and the under-sixes will ensure that our oldest citizens and the parents of our youngest can go to their GP, focusing on their health and not how much the visit will cost.”

Subject to the legislation being passed by both Houses of the Oireachtas, the objective is to have a universal GP service for over 70s in Quarter 2 of this year. This is proposed to coincide with the introduction of the under six service.

The Government’s Statement of Government Priorities 2014-2016 reiterated the commitment to the introduction of a universal GP service for the entire population, in line with the Programme for Government.

The Government has prioritised the under sixes and over 70s in the first two phases of the roll-out of universal GP care. The second phase of introducing a universal GP service will cover all persons aged 70 years and over. It is estimated that about 36,000 over 70s currently pay to attend a GP as they are not covered by a medical card or a GP visit card. The cost to the Exchequer of the proposed legislation for a universal over 70s GP service is estimated at €18 million in a full year.

This service will be provided under the existing GMS GP contract. Negotiations on a contract to facilitate the extension of free GP care to all children under the age of six are at an advanced stage between the Department of Health, HSE and the IMO. Contracts will not be issued pending the conclusion of negotiations.