Stella Kyriakides nomination puts patient advocate in top EU health post

A professional patient advocate is set to take charge of the Commissions health department.

Stella Kyriakides, 63, is a breast cancer patient, the daughter of a breast cancer patient, and a past president of the Continents most prominent breast cancer patient group: Europa Donna. A medical psychologist, shes also proven to be a savvy and sympathetic political operator, according to people whove seen her in action in the Cypriot parliament.

Her nomination as the next European Commissioner for health may represent a reversal of fortune for patient organizations, who have felt snubbed in Brussels despite the increasing use of buzzwords like “patient-centered care.”

“Of course, she was also a patient so she knows exactly what its like to be a patient for chronic disease,” said Marios Kouloumas, president of the Pancyprian Federation of Patients Associations and Friends. “So shes very supportive, shes very open minded.”

Commission President-elect Ursula von der Leyen gave Kyriakides a set of politically charged priorities on Tuesday, including ensuring the “supply of affordable medicines” and improving communications on vaccines amid a wave of misinformation and skepticism. It will also be up to Kyriakides to break through a stalemate over health technology assessment, as a powerful minority of member countries continue to rebel against the Commissions insistence on mandatory uptake of joint scientific reports.

The head of the European Patients Forum cheered the nomination of “someone who has direct experience of working with the patient advocacy community and who has a track record of having brought together the patient, clinical and health policy perspectives.” The umbrella organization “hopes that her experience and knowledge will help to ensure that health forms a central part of the new Commissions agenda and that the patient perspective is central to how that agenda is delivered,” said Executive Director Usman Khan.

Running a sprawling administrative bureaucracy isnt on Kyriakides CV. But she has experienced firsthand the challenge of getting member countries to embrace health initiatives originating in Brussels. During her tenure as Europa Donnas president, from 2004 to 2006, capitals showed resistance to instituting the European Parliaments resolution on breast cancer, which included new standards for screening and treatment. So she instituted a training program for advocates around the Continent, teaching them both the science of breast cancer and the craft of lobbying.

Shes also proven deft at charming ideological adversaries. A member of the Cypriot parliament since 2006, Kyriakides is the vice president of the center-right Democratic Rally party and close to President Nicos Anastasiades. But she is “well accepted from all the people from across all the parties,” Kouloumas said. As a local political gossip column put it, shes something of a “Mother Theresa” figure who helps others but is relatively apolitical.

For Brussels beleaguered patient organizations, her legislative record offers some encouragement. Theyve faced some roadblocks over the past year: the Parliaments latest position essentially shuts them out of the health technology assessmnet (HTA) process, and there were no patient representatives included on the panel of experts tasked with shaping the cancer mission under Horizon Europe.

This type of snub isnt an issue for Cypriot patient groups. According to Kouloumas, Kyriakides played a pivotal rRead More – Source