BRUSSELS, Belgium - European Commissioner Erkki Liikanen, responsible for enterprise policy, held discussions in Brussels Monday with key European figures responsible for medicines, "to take a hard look at the competitiveness of the EU pharmaceutical industry," according to his aides.

Biotechnology was high on the agenda in a review of the growing signs of what the commissioner called a "competitiveness gap" between the EU and U.S.-based parts of the medicines industry.

The meeting of EU member state ministers, industry chief executives, Euro-MPs and patient organizations focused on the effects of biotechnology in medicine, the ways in which industry and academia interact in Europe and worldwide, the impact of the EU single market on sales of pharmaceuticals, and the implications of the structure of the markets in the EU and U.S. on prices and availability of medicines.

"Society wants and needs a steady flow of innovative medicines, and if the reward for innovation can be properly targeted it is very substantial," the commissioner said. "But governments and the Commission have a responsibility also to patients, and there is a delicate balance to be struck."

The European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations, which played a prominent part in the meeting, afterward said it shared the Commission's view that that the European pharmaceutical industry is losing competitiveness.

EFPIA President Jorge Gallardo said, "It sounds a new warning to European policy makers about a worrying situation which has been gradually deteriorating for several years. The diagnosis is clear. Now is the time for action."