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The WHO report outlines possible policies that may help governments reduce the high prices of new medicines.
Despite the rapid pace of therapeutic innovation, European healthcare systems are finding it increasingly difficult to afford new medicines. The World Health Organization regional office for Europe has released a new report on Access to New Medicines in Europe, which features findings from 27 countries and explores the different approaches taken by European governments to deal with high spending on new medicines. It includes a review of methods such as restrictive treatment guidelines, target levels for use of generics, and limitations on the use of particularly expensive drugs.
It has been noted that only a few countries in the WHO European Region have a proper framework in place to evaluate the cost-effectiveness of new medicines. For low- and middle-income countries, where regulation mechanisms are less developed, keeping a balance between access and cost-effectiveness has proven to be a challenge.
Pharmaceutical companies often push for higher prices for new medicines because they want to recuperate R&D costs. However, the negotiation process between governments and pharmaceutical companies is not transparent, hence, leaving gaps in drug pricing policies.
The report outlines key directions for the future that may help governments reduce high prices when introducing new medicines. It highlights the importance of strengthening collaboration and transparency in policy making as well as strengthening cooperation between governments, regulators, and pharmaceutical companies.
Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO regional director for Europe, commented in a press release that “the objective is to help countries to define their priorities so that they get the best out of the investment they make in new medicines.” The ultimate goal, however, is to protect the best interest of patients and to ensure that they are not provided with expensive new treatments that offer little or no improvement in health outcomes, continued Jakab.
“It is encouraging that new medicines are being developed but national health authorities have to be sure, when taking decisions on purchasing newly developed drugs, that the price reflects the therapeutic results,” said Hanne Bak Pedersen, programme manager, Health Technologies and Pharmaceuticals, WHO Regional Office for Europe. “Our report explores trends, practices and evidence that can increase transparency and help governments to negotiate better with the industry to lower the prices of new drugs.”
The Regional Office partnered with the following agencies and WHO collaborating centers to produce this report: Emilia-Romagna Health and Social Care Agency; Gesundheit Österreich (GÖG); Karolinska Institute; London School of Economics and Political Science; Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD); and the governments of the Netherlands and Norway.