The increasing drug prices in Europe

Vytenis Andriukaitis

Vytenis Andriukaitis, Member of the EC in charge of Health and Food Safety, and Carlos Moedas, Member of the EC in charge of Research, Science and Innovation, awarded the “Horizon Prize – Better Use of Antibiotics” and “The EU Health Awards for NGO’s fighting Antimicrobial Resistance” at a ceremony hold in Leuven. © European Union , 2017 / Source: EC – Audiovisual Service / Photo: Lukasz Kobus.

This article was written by one of our passionate readers, Mrs Rachel Everly. The opinions expressed within reflect only the writer’s views and not The European Sting’s position on the issue.

Rising drug prices have not been a recent issue, it has always been a part and parcel of the medical expenses. Not only is the United States suffering through a spike in the prices of medicines, but European medical bills have taken a toll for the worse as well. Prior to that, Europe had refrained from huge raises in the prices and until 2011, the selling price of many prescription pills had been steadily low.

Since most of the European nations are funding the healthcare systems on a government level, it is only understandable that they would want to keep a close track of the pharmaceutical industry. Due to this reason, the European Pharmaceutical companies are known to work on laws and regulations that restrict them from increasing the prices of the medicines for more than once a year. The price, profits, and comparison of the prices with the international market were always screened and assessed throughout the year without adjusting the prices.

In 2011, many European countries saw a gradual rise in multiple medicines and the rates have been rising ever since, without any restriction. This will affect many consumers and the fee structure of their individual health plans. To counter this problem, European Parliament’s environment Committee (ENVI) is favoring a non-legislative proposition that will strive for making these products more widespread in the European region. However, this must not be confused with an actual law being added in the region’s policies, as it is merely a resolution waiting to be approved by the authorities. With time, it may be considered and the European Union may only then choose to implement it.

The price of specific drugs has been a matter of huge concern for the public. Looking at the prices of those medicines in the previous years has shown an increase in prices for as much as over 1000%. Drugs that are used for leukemia patients have an increased price of 1225%, while tamoxifen, which is used primarily for breast cancer has risen by 1080% from 2011 to 2016. A chemotherapy drug has seen a spike of 1500% but later was fined for 5 million euros for an illegal increase in the price.

Charges of relatively new drugs that have little to no competition are also in the race for increasing their prices up to stupendous amounts. Multiple Sclerosis and Cancer treatment drugs are hiking due to lack of competition and insurance companies and pharmacy beneficiaries are losing against keeping these companies at bay.

The setting not only destabilizes the people who are insured but deeply affects the people who chose not to be insured or cannot afford healthcare. Previously, a person who could not have afforded to have themselves operated could find comfort in medicines. The same is not the case anymore and medical prescription drugs have become even more unattainable than before for many uninsured people out there. Seniors who have retired and do not have an insurance plan can also be looking at paying higher prices than they have previously been paying.

It has been debated for more than one year that the prices of the drugs do not represent the true cost of its production. It is concluded that the price of its manufacturing is far lower than the price label put on the product.  Most of these increments in prices have more to do with profits for these drug manufacturing companies and little to do with the increasing demands and lack of supply. To counter any research and development aspect of a new drug and decrease its cost, the patient-driven research is promoted. This means that the patient can sponsor the research and have the cure developed and tested.

Another speculation that has also been made is that due to the fact that they are only allowed to raise the costs once a year. This has made the marketers overly cautious and in order to withstand any possible demand and supply problem, or a price hike in the global market, they increase their rates by a huge percentage.

In order to provide a safer and more affordable plan for the healthcare system, the government, the people, and the drug manufacturers must work together. More and more efforts have been put on by EU health ministers in 2016 to warn the pharmaceuticals to lower the prices down as it has created a market that is highly unapproachable.

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