Prague pushes for joint EU purchases of orphan drugs

Apart from orphan drugs, the EU should also explore the possibility of joint purchases of other medical products, Válek said. According to the minister, the EU should build on its experience with collective contracts on COVID-19 vaccines. [EPA-EFE/MARTIN DIVISEK]

Czech Health Minister Vlastimil Válek is calling for joint EU purchases of orphan medicines used against rare diseases as potential EU contracts could reduce the price of drugs and increase their accessibility for patients.

Orphan drugs are developed to treat such rare diseases that it would not be profitable to produce them without public support.

The EU currently offers incentives to encourage the development of selected orphan medicines, but there is no scheme for joint purchases. Instead, each EU country buys orphan drugs in small quantities as less than one person in 2,000 is affected by a rare disease.

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) estimates that about 30 million people living in the EU suffer from a rare disease.

Apart from orphan drugs, the EU should also explore the possibility of joint purchases of other medical products, Válek said. According to the minister, the EU should build on its experience with collective contracts on COVID-19 vaccines.

Regarding COVID-19 vaccines, there is an intensive discussion at the European level about what to do with supplies ordered for 2022. Some countries, including the Czech Republic and Poland, will not use allocated vaccines as citizens have no more interest in getting a shot.

Poland has already informed the European Commission that it will not take or pay for more vaccines under the EU’s supply contract.

Válek also said he would like to set future rules for the COVID-19 vaccine when the Czech Republic takes over the EU Council presidency in the second half of 2022.

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