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Brussels, 21st March 2011

Medical Devices: high-level conference on delivering innovative healthcare

Medical devices make a critical difference to quality of life for millions of EU citizens everyday. From the simple bandage to the most sophisticated life-supporting products, the medical devices sector plays a crucial role in the diagnosis, prevention, monitoring and treatment of diseases to improve the lives of people suffering from illness or disability. EU Health and Consumer Commissioner John Dalli, and Hungary's Minister of State for Health Miklós Szócska, will co-chair tomorrow a High Level Conference in Brussels on "Exploring innovative healthcare – the role of medical technology innovation and regulation". They will call for improvements in the innovation process so that, safe, life-saving and life-enhancing medical equipment can be brought to Europe's patients and consumers as quickly as possible. The outcomes of the Conference are expected to feed into concrete initiatives, in particular to the recently launched European Partnership on Innovation and the upcoming Recast of the medical device legislation.

Commissioner Dalli said "Europe's patients benefit from the latest in medical technology, but Europe is facing major public health, societal and demographic challenges and we need to respond with innovative solutions. Innovation is the oxygen of our economy and the answer to tomorrow's needs – it is imperative."

This conference is a follow-up to the exploratory process on the future of the medical device sector launched in 20091 – where stakeholders (patients, consumers, healthcare professionals, insurers and medical device industry) endorsed the need for a clear political vision of the role of the medical device sector in the health of citizens and the economy.

The conference will host a high level political discussion in the morning with Ministers, Members of the European Parliament, Heads of European Agencies responsible for medical devices, as well as representatives for patients, consumers, healthcare professionals, insurers and the medical device industry. The focus will be on how innovation in medical devices can respond to Europe's healthcare challenges. The afternoon session will be a more technical level discussion dedicated to the EU's medical device legislation and how to adapt this legislation to ensure that manufaturers can bring life-saving and life-enhancing equipment to the market as quickly as possible and that all medical devices on the European market are safe.

What are medical devices?

A whole range of medical devices are in use all around us everyday, from contact lenses to life support machines. They help us cope with human disease, care for injuries, replace or support anatomical structures or physiological functions. They include instruments, implants, machines, software - to name but a few. They are central to major developments in healthcare. They are important in the context of the challenges we face, including: ageing population, increased incidence of chronic diseases, and sustainability of healthcare systems.

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