Cell and tissue banking vol:14 issue:4 pages:525-60
The transplantation of conventional human cell and tissue grafts, such as heart valve replacements and skin for severely burnt patients, has saved many lives over the last decades. The late eighties saw the emergence of tissue engineering with the focus on the development of biological substitutes that restore or improve tissue function. In the nineties, at the height of the tissue engineering hype, industry incited policymakers to create a European regulatory environment, which would facilitate the emergence of a strong single market for tissue engineered products and their starting materials (human cells and tissues). In this paper we analyze the elaboration process of this new European Union (EU) human cell and tissue product regulatory regime-i.e. the EU Cell and Tissue Directives (EUCTDs) and the Advanced Therapy Medicinal Product (ATMP) Regulation and evaluate its impact on Member States' health care systems. We demonstrate that the successful lobbying on key areas of regulatory and policy processes by industry, in congruence with Europe's risk aversion and urge to promote growth and jobs, led to excessively business oriented legislation. Expensive industry oriented requirements were introduced and contentious social and ethical issues were excluded. We found indications that this new EU safety and health legislation will adversely impact Member States' health care systems; since 30 December 2012 (the end of the ATMP transitional period) there is a clear threat to the sustainability of some lifesaving and established ATMPs that were provided by public health institutions and small and medium-sized enterprises under the frame of the EUCTDs. In the light of the current economic crisis it is not clear how social security systems will cope with the inflation of costs associated with this new regulatory regime and how priorities will be set with regard to reimbursement decisions. We argue that the ATMP Regulation should urgently be revised to focus on delivering affordable therapies to all who are in need of them and this without necessarily going to the market. The most rapid and elegant way to achieve this would be for the European Commission to publish an interpretative document on "placing on the market of ATMPs," which keeps tailor-made and niche ATMPs outside of the scope of the medicinal product regulation.