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ESC President, Prof Weidinger: “We need a common cardiac health plan to combat this burden”

Confronting Europe’s leading killer


Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the leading cause of mortality in Europe, accounting for one-third of all deaths across the continent. Significant regional and socioeconomic disparities persist among the 27 EU countries.

The outgoing President of the European Society of Cardiology (ESC), Professor Franz Weidinger, emphasises the urgent need for a coordinated European cardiovascular health plan. He believes that research, innovation, and digital solutions will address unmet needs in cardiovascular care.

Professor Weidinger's successful two-year tenure as ESC President will conclude in September. Under the leadership of the Austrian cardiologist, the world's largest society of cardiovascular professionals has made notable strides in putting cardiovascular disease on the European political agenda. "With new technologies, we can better meet patients' needs, whether through supportive care, effective medications, or assistance with daily concerns. But it’s simply not enough."

Over 5 million new cases of CVD are diagnosed annually in the EU, and nearly 53 million people live with the disease. The economic burden is immense, with CVD costing Europe 282 billion euros in 2021 alone. This figure is nearly 100 billion euros more than the entire EU budget and represents 2% of Europe's GDP.

"The COVID-19 pandemic severely impacted Austria, causing a significant rise in deaths and economic strain. It’s where the focus has been in our country. However, even during the worst of the pandemic, more Austrians died from cardiovascular diseases than COVID[1]. Today CVD is Austria represents 37% of deaths in women and 31% in men.

“We need a multifaceted strategy, a common cardiac health plan to combat this burden," Weidinger states. "This includes more preventive work, education, access to healthcare services, and ongoing research to bridge gaps and ensure continuous innovation."

There is a significant disparity between the need for new CVD treatments and the investment in clinical trials. In 2022 European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA) indicated 4% of total clinical trials started in 2017-2022 period are focused on CVD, versus 24% for cancer or 12% for infectious diseases. In 2021, three new CV drugs were approved by the European Medicine Agency (EMA) among 92 positive opinions. In 2023 only one has received a positive EMA opinion.

“The investment in innovation that could deliver personalised precision medicine that is working so well in cancer simply does not exist. It is a huge imbalance when we consider the weight of CVD on our society.” says Professor Weidinger.

In addition to holding the top job in cardiology, Professor Weidinger continues to see patients regularly at Klinik Landstasse in Vienna and takes great pleasure in meeting those who have benefited from quality cardiac care, leading stable and good quality lives.

One of Professor Weidinger’s final acts as ESC President will be to address representatives from Ministries of Health across Europe in a high-level conference this July in Budapest. “I have spent my entire career treating patients with cardiovascular disease, but making a cardiovascular health plan a national and European health priority would save millions of lives. This responsibility is not just on doctors, but on all of us.” he concludes.



Notes to editor

ESC Press Office
Tel: +33 (0)4 83 88 17 74

The hashtag for ESC Congress 2024 is #ESCCongress

Follow us on Twitter @ESCardioNews 


Notes and references



About ESC Congress 2024

It is the world’s largest gathering of cardiovascular professionals, disseminating ground-breaking science both onsite in London and online – from 30 August to 2 September. Explore the scientific programme. More information is available from the ESC Press Office at


About the European Society of Cardiology

The ESC brings together health care professionals from more than 150 countries, working to advance cardiovascular medicine and help people to live longer, healthier lives.