European Parliament passes access to medicines resolution
The European Parliament (EP) has the affordability of medicines in its sights and is calling for measures to improve "the traceability of R&D costs, public funding and marketing expenditure."
The prices of new medicines in the EU have risen over the past few decades, to the point of being "unaffordable for many EU citizens and threatening the sustainability of national health care systems," says the EP in a statement.
The new resolution – drafted by MEP Soledad Cabezon Ruiz - was approved by 568 votes to 30, with 52 abstentions on 2 March. Ruiz said that the pharma industry "must be competitive when it comes to producing quality innovation, while at the same time responding to patients' needs with medicines which are safe, effective and accessible."
In particular, the proposals ask for more clarity on R&D costs by medicine developers, and that the "high level of public funds" that go into R&D is taken into account when the pricing of new products is set.
"Public health systems in Europe are a key part of the identity of the EU and something which we value highly. Access to medicines must be guaranteed and in order to achieve that, we need to rebalance the negotiating power of EU member states compared to that of the pharmaceutical industry," continued Ruiz.
The MEPs call on the Council of the EU and the European Commission to strengthen the negotiating capacity of member states in order to ensure affordable access to medicines across the EU, and reduce market fragmentation.
Meanwhile, other measures on the table include a new Transparency Directive to ensure "effective controls and full transparency on the procedures used to determine the prices and the reimbursement of medicinal products", and the development of a "robust" Health Technology Assessment (HTA) system which gives priority to genuine therapeutic advances.
The proposals have been warmly received by the European Public Health Alliance, a patient representative organisation, which said it welcomed calls for proper enforcement of competition rules in the pharmaceutical sector "as drug manufacturers may profit from the absence of the forces of robust competition, leading to higher prices and cutting some patients off from treatment."