Access to medicines: Let’s have better care, for more patients

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

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Marc-Alexander Mahl is president of Medicines for Europe [Medicines for Europe]

Marc-Alexander Mahl is President of Medicines for Europe.

Europe’s healthcare model is under pressure. Populations are ageing in Europe – with the number of Europeans aged 65 or over set to rise by 45 million between 2015 and 2050.(1) This brings with it greater healthcare costs: currently, around 50 million EU citizens are estimated to suffer from two or more chronic conditions.

As most of them are 65 years and over, this number is expected to increase in coming years.(2) This means more patients requiring more treatment: IMS data shows that global spending on new brand medicines has more than doubled in 2014 to almost 29 BN USD.(3)

At the same time, we have seen significant austerity measures put in place in many EU countries: since 2009, annual growth rates of health spending per capita across OECD countries have dropped, leading to closures of hospitals, stress on emergency wards, and insufficient spending on vital healthcare infrastructure.

This makes value for money and efficiency in healthcare systems all the more important to ensure that patients get access to the medicines they need.(4)

One obvious solution – and one that has been endorsed by the Council of the European Union and the European Parliament – is to boost the role of generic, biosimilar and value-added medicines in healthcare. Their positive impact has already been proven: thanks to generic, biosimilar and value-added medicines, access to medicines has doubled across Europe over the last 10 years.

To provide this access without generic, biosimilar and value-added medicines, patients and health insurers would have had to pay an incredible €100 billion more to cover the drugs bills. There is still plenty of opportunity to increase this access.

While some European countries have a market share of over 70% for generic medicines, others are under 40%. Policymakers can also do much more to recognise the opportunity that biosimilar and value-added medicines can provide for better access, better health.

To achieve greater access to medicines for all Europeans, we are calling for the following:

  • Generic, biosimilar and value-added medicines must be at the centre of healthcare policies.
  • Barriers to competition in pharmaceuticals must be removed to provide greater access to medicines for all Europeans.
  • Governments should offer more incentives to insurers, doctors, pharmacists and patients to choose more cost-effective generic medicines over brand-name drugs. This should go beyond pricing and include reimbursement and bonuses for doctors who prescribe cost-effectively.
  • Governments and policymakers should empower doctors and patients with unbiased information about the quality and efficacy of generic, biosimilar and value-added medicines. France’s public information campaign is an excellent example in this regard.(6)
  • Finally, governments should stimulate access to generic, biosimilar and value-added medicines and then allow competition to shape prices. Government intervention to artificially lower prices in an already highly competitive market is unsustainable and leads to supply shortages.




3 Quintiles IMS Health, MIDAS, Q4 2014; OECD population statistics.


5 Quintiles IMS Health, MIDAS, Q4 2014; OECD population statistics.


Find out more about our campaign ‘’Access to Medicines: Better Care for More Patients’’ here.

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