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European countries should collaborate to reduce drug prices Posted 04/05/2015

According to a study published by the World Health Organization (WHO) on 26 March 2015 transparency and cooperation help to reduce high prices for new medicines.

The report, entitled Access to new medicines in Europe: technical review of policy initiatives, opportunities for collaboration and research, finds that governments are finding it increasingly difficult to afford expensive new treatments for chronic conditions like cancer, type 2 diabetes and hepatitis C.

The study carried out by the WHO Regional Office for Europe shows that few of the 27 European countries studied have mechanisms in place to evaluate the cost-effectiveness of new drugs, a fact that is hampering value-assessment and decision-making processes.

Transparency is seriously lacking, according to the report; both the supply and prices of new medicines are often fixed in framework agreements between governments and pharmaceutical producers and the negotiation process is generally rather opaque. While countries like Germany and the UK have cost watchdogs that force companies to negotiate discount deals, the prices they pay often remain confidential. Countries need to strengthen cooperation and share their experiences if transparency is to be achieved and gaps in medicines pricing policies are to be filled.

The report therefore recommends that in the future:

  • Cooperation should be strengthened between governments, regulators and drug companies
  • Collaboration and transparency in policy-making should be increased
  • Particular focus should be given to chronic care, specialty medicines and rare diseases

The report also notes that while all countries across Europe are facing problems due to the high prices of new medicines, the challenge is even greater in low- and middle-income countries, where regulation mechanisms are less developed and health systems are weaker.

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Source: WHO

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