Friday 14 May 2021

Hospitals to buy cancer drugs collectively to drive costs down

Amsterdam’s VU medical centre. Photo:

The eight Dutch teaching hospitals are to purchase cancer medicines collectively in an attempt to cut down the spiralling cost of treatment.

Representative body NFU said the experimental plan concerned an immunotherapy treatment that currently costs tens of thousands of euros per patient per year. Experts have warned in recent weeks that the system for funding production and development is reformed, otherwise cancer drugs could become unaffordable as survival rates increase.

The hospitals taking part in the initial scheme are the AMC and VU Medical Centre in Amsterdam, Rotterdam’s Erasmus Medical Centre and the university hospitals in Utrecht, Leiden, Groningen, Nijmegen and Maastricht.

The Erasmus hospital says it spent €180 million on medicines last year, compared to €100 million last year. New cancer treatments accounted for much of the increase.

René Bernards, of the Antoni van Leeuwenhoek cancer hospital in Amsterdam, said taking the production of medicines out of the hands of pharmaceutical companies could slash the cost per patient from €100,000 a year to around €2,000. ‘We can do it in a different and cheaper way and we need to take the iniative,’ he said. ‘That’s what society expects of us.’

They have also said they want to publish details of the discounts on the cost price that they are able to negotiate with pharmaceutical firms, but the NFU admitted that this may contravene marketing rules.

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