EU southern alliance on drug pricing expands

Yannis Natsis: "It is their response to the ‘divide and rule’ strategy pharmaceutical companies have been pursuing for years." [Shutterstock]

Slovenia has joined the “Valletta Declaration”, an alliance of southern EU member states, which aims to explore strategies to jointly negotiate prices with the pharma industry, as well as Croatia with an observer status.

In May 2017, the health ministers of Malta, Cyprus, Greece, Italy, Spain, and Portugal signed the “Valletta Declaration”, an alliance of southern EU member states, which aims to explore strategies to jointly negotiate prices with the pharma industry.

Later on, Ireland and Romania also joined the regional cooperation group as well as Croatia (observer status) and Slovenia during a meeting in Madrid on 30 January.

For the first time, France also expressed its interest and followed the work of the group’s Technical Committee.

Similar agreements have already been made by several EU countries, including Benelux with Austria (Beneluxa).

Southern EU states present unified front in drug talks

Six southern member states have signed a common declaration, aiming to enhance their cooperation and jointly negotiate with the pharmaceutical industry on drug pricing.

Yannis Natsis, Policy Manager at the European Public Health Alliance (EPHA), hailed the adhesion of Slovenia and Croatia in the group as a promising development.

“With Beneluxa, the Valletta Declaration Group etc governments are simply getting organised. It is their response to the ‘divide and rule’ strategy pharmaceutical companies have been pursuing for years and a direct result of the unreasonably high prices drug manufacturers are charging,” he said.

Natsis added that 2018 is the year these initiatives “prove their game-changing potential”.

The purpose of the meeting in Spain was to renew the “political agreement” among these countries and proceed to the technical preparation of the next steps in order to jointly evaluate and negotiate the prices of new medicines coming to Europe.

EURACTIV was informed that the Valletta Declaration group would focus on new medicines that are not currently reimbursed in any of these member states.

Greek Minister of Health Andreas Ksanthos stressed that the pharmaceutical industry should understand that the way of negotiating acceptable compensation rates at national and international level was a one-way road as well as an opportunity for quick and guaranteed access to pharmaceutical innovations in large markets.

“The European Commission must support this voluntary cooperation on the basis of EU law if we really want to talk about a single Europe of citizens and social rights,” Ksanthos emphasised.

The pharma industry does not oppose the regional cooperation among EU countries but warns that the confidentiality of any negotiated net prices should be respected.

Background

Last June, EU health officials took timid steps to address the rising price of medicines, recognising that in many cases, market failures prevented drugs from reaching patients in need of treatment.

The ministers expressed concerns that the existing complex system of pricing might not be balanced, and that “it may not always promote the best possible outcome for patients and society”.

In addition, member states were encouraged to explore strategies to jointly negotiate prices with the pharma industry and urged them to exchange information in the phase preceding the launch of negotiations with drug makers.

EU health ministers confront crisis in affordability of medicines

EU health ministers took reluctant steps last Friday (17 June) to address the rising price of medicines.

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