Friday 14 August 2020

Big pharma firms criticise Dutch campaign to slash drug prices

Assorted pills


Foreign pharmaceuticals companies in the Netherlands say they are ‘concerned’ that the government is undermining the business climate by trying to force down the price of drugs.

The companies, including MSD, Gilead and Johnson & Johnson unit Janssen, are all members of Amcham, the American chamber of commerce in the Netherlands, which has written to health minister Bruno Bruins calling for a rethink.

The organisation says Bruins is not sufficiently aware of the investment needed to develop new drugs and that the return on investment in the sector has now shrunk to 1.9%. This, Amcham says, ‘is too low to ensure the sector remains attractive for investors’.

Bruins has made strongly worded statements about the industry following two high profile cases involving soaring drug prices.

In January, Bruins reacted angrily to a decision by Swiss pharmaceuticals giant Novartis to put up the price of a drug to treat a rare form of cancer five fold, describing it as ‘outrageous‘.

And in November, Amsterdam’s AMC teaching hospital was given the green light to make its own version of a licenced drug to treat a rare metabolic disorder. The hospital began making its own version of the drug after manufacturer Leadiant ramped up the price by around 500% to €200,000 per patient per year.


The Dutch healthcare institute Zorginstituut Nederland has also said insurers should stop paying for expensive drugs if pharmaceutical companies continue to refuse to say how they arrive at the price.

‘Asking companies to provide transparency about price setting on a product level doesn’t take into account that the primary goal of pharmaceutical companies is not to recoup R&D costs, but to invest today in the medicines of tomorrow,’ the Amcham statement says.

In addition, the government strategy ‘would also send the wrong signal to other so-called “priority sectors” of the Dutch economy, which together produce more than a quarter of the Dutch GDP’ Amcham said.

The Netherlands hopes to attract more pharmaceuticals firms to locate here following the successful bid to host the European Medicines Agency EMA, which has to leave London due to Brexit.

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