MEPs Take on EU Drug Pricing

06.03.2017 -

At a plenary session last week, the European Parliament (EP) discussed the trend toward rising drug prices in the EU over the past few decades and drafted proposals for dealing with it. The price of medicines has risen to the point that they are unaffordable for many, and this threatens the sustainability of national health care systems, the Parliament said in a resolution accepted by 568 votes to 30 with 52 abstentions.

To strike a better balance between EU countries’ public health interests and those of the pharmaceutical industry, the resolution calls for action to improve the traceability of R&D costs, public funding and marketing expenditure. To this extent, the MEPs said further European cooperation and new policy measures at both EU and national levels are needed.

Pointing to “striking differences” between EU countries in the sale and availability of innovative medicines, the EP said it perceives a “clear asymmetry” between pharmaceutical companies and member states in negotiating capacity and pricing information. New legislation should be drafted to “ensure the full transparency and effective controls of the procedures used to determine the prices and reimbursement of medicinal products in the member states,” it added.

As public health systems “are a key part of the identity of the EU and something which we value highly,” said MEP Soledad Cabezon Ruiz, who drafted the resolution. Access to medicines must be guaranteed, she said. To achieve that,” we need to rebalance the negotiating power of EU member states compared to that of the pharmaceutical industry.”

Cabezon Ruiz underscored also that the pharmaceutical industry must be competitive in order to produce quality innovation and respond to patients' needs with medicines that are safe, effective and accessible.  

More clarity is needed on research costs, including the share of publicly funded research, and on the marketing of medicines, the MEPs stressed. The resolution calls on the Council and Commission to strengthen the negotiating capacity of member states in order to ensure affordable access to medicines across the EU.

In the Parliament’s view, “the high level of public funds used for R&D is not reflected in the pricing of medicines, and this “impedes a fair return on public investment.” The resolution also calls or greater clarity on R&D costs.