Rösler infuriates pharma industry with plan to cut drugs costs

German Health Minister Philipp Rösler surprised observers and infuriated the pharma industry on Friday by launching a tough-seeming package to reduce drug costs including mandatory price cuts.

Rösler infuriates pharma industry with plan to cut drugs costs
Photo: DPA

Rösler, who has until now been perceived as a friend of the pharma industry, said he hoped to promote competition as well as make significant savings to the statutory health care costs, which previous governments have been able to get under control.

His proposed package of reforms includes an increase of the mandatory discount for patented drugs sold to the statutory health system from the current six percent to 16 percent.

Prices will be frozen at August 2009 levels until the end of 2013, and the current fixed price system for some patented drugs, as well as the discount price contract system for generic, or copied drugs, will be retained.

Rösler’s major focus is a new system to set prices on new, innovative drugs, which he said entirely accounted for the increase in drug spending last year.

The new system grants producers freedom to set prices themselves for the first year of a drug being on the market. But when the drug is launched, the producer must produce a dossier on its costs and benefits, which will be assessed by the authorities.

If a drug is found not to offer additional benefit to what is already available, it will immediately be put under the fixed price system. Prices for those drugs which do offer additional benefit, will be subject to central negotiation on prices for the statutory system, he said.

The association for innovation-based pharma companies, the VFA, denounced the system as breaking promises made when the coalition government was formed, and said it would be devastating to prospects for investment in Germany.

VFA manager Cornelia Yzer said in a statement: “The coalition contract promised a competitive reorganisation and deregulation for the drugs sector. These points in contrast, contain enforced measures and can hardly be beaten for their bureaucratic complexity.”

The other important pharma lobby group in Germany, the association of the pharma industry, BPI, also heavily criticised the price freeze and increased mandatory price reduction, as well as the continuation of the discount contract system.

ProGenerika, the association representing the generics industry, which produces cheap copies of drugs after their patents have expired, issued a statement tearing into the minister’s reform. Peter Schmidt, ProGenerika manager said in the statement: “The generics industry rejects these suggestions without any ifs or buts. They are partly not carefully targeted, partly really nebulous and partly eyewash.”

Rösler published the new regulations after lengthy discussions with political partners. He said they would be drawn up into a bill over the coming weeks and he hoped they would come into effect by the start of 2011.

The plans were welcomed by the association of statutory health insurers, the GKV Spitzenverband whose chairwoman Doris Pfeiffer said in a statement: “It is good that the government is acting decisively on the high medication prices. Price negotiations in connection with a sensible benefit analysis are the key to prevent excessively high prices for new drugs.

“With the short-term measures also announced, and the maintenance of the discount contract system which individual insurers can arrange, it is altogether a good package.”

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Swedish opposition proposes ‘rapid tests for ADHD’ to cut gang crime

The Moderate Party in Stockholm has called for children in so called "vulnerable areas" to be given rapid tests for ADHD to increase treatment and cut gang crime.

Swedish opposition proposes 'rapid tests for ADHD' to cut gang crime

In a press release, the party proposed that treating more children in troubled city areas would help prevent gang crime, given that “people with ADHD diagnoses are “significantly over-represented in the country’s jails”. 

The idea is that children in so-called “vulnerable areas”, which in Sweden normally have a high majority of first and second-generation generation immigrants, will be given “simpler, voluntary tests”, which would screen for ADHD, with those suspected of having the neuropsychiatric disorder then put forward for proper evaluations to be given by a child psychiatrist. 

“The quicker you can put in place measures, the better the outcomes,” says Irene Svenonius, the party’s leader in the municipality, of ADHD treatment, claiming that children in Sweden with an immigrant background were less likely to be medicated for ADHD than other children in Sweden. 

In the press release, the party said that there were “significant differences in the diagnosis and treatment of ADHD within Stockholm country”, with Swedish-born children receiving diagnosis and treatment to a higher extent, and with ADHD “with the greatest probability” underdiagnosed in vulnerable areas. 

At a press conference, the party’s justice spokesman Johan Forsell, said that identifying children with ADHD in this areas would help fight gang crime. 

“We need to find these children, and that is going to help prevent crime,” he said. 

Sweden’s climate minister Annika Strandhäll accused the Moderates of wanting to “medicate away criminality”. 

Lotta Häyrynen, editor of the trade union-backed comment site Nya Mitten, pointed out that the Moderates’s claim to want to help children with neuropsychiatric diagnoses in vulnerable areas would be more credible if they had not closed down seven child and youth psychiatry units. 

The Moderate Party MP and debater Hanif Bali complained about the opposition from left-wing commentators and politicians.

“My spontaneous guess would have been that the Left would have thought it was enormously unjust that three times so many immigrant children are not getting a diagnosis or treatment compared to pure-Swedish children,” he said. “Their hate for the Right is stronger than their care for the children. 

Swedish vocab: brottsförebyggande – preventative of crime