Conservatives plan to rein in pharmaceutical prices

Germany’s ruling Christian Democrats (CDU) have proposed a sweeping price freeze on prescription drugs for three years, according to a report published by the Süddeutsche Zeitung daily on Saturday.

Conservatives plan to rein in pharmaceutical prices
Photo: DPA

The new plan foresees strict regulations of the pharmaceutical industry, going well beyond suggestions made recently by Health Minister Philipp Rösler, who has already threatened the pharmaceutical industry with mandatory price cuts for common medications. The minister’s pro-business Free Democrats (FDP) are junior coalition partner to Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives.

“Our recommendations are a good basis for discussion with our coalition partner,” said CDU parliamentarian Jens Spahn.

Under the proposal developed by the CDU and its Bavarian sister party the CSU, medication costs that are well above the international average price would be capped. Drugs still under patent would be subject to high mandatory discounts, which must be guaranteed by health insurers.

The plan would also call for the pharmaceutical industry to refund money earned through the sale of overpriced drugs.

As public health insurers tackle rising expenses, the CDU hopes the new plan will ease insurers’ financial problems, including ballooning debt levels. According to the German Federal Insurance Office, public insurers face a deficit of up to €15 billion in 2011.

The CDU also hopes drug companies will opt for negotiations with the GKV National Association of Statutory Health Insurers. Health Minister Rösler prefers that discussions take place with individual insurers.

In an interview with daily Bild last Wednesday, the 37-year-old trained physician said he would require drug firms to negotiate with public health insurers “as soon as possible” to lower prices for medicines.

“I always said that I would take a hard approach to the pharmaceutical industry and their prices,” he told the paper.

The CDU will meet with the FDP to discuss the proposal next week.

“Our goal is to get to the key points as quickly as possible,” said CDU politician Johannes Singhammer. But slashing medication prices should not come at the expense of quality care, he said.

The price freeze on drugs would be put in force quickly, according to the Süddeutsche Zeitung report. Mandatory discounts and a broad comparison of German medication prices with the international standard would begin next year.

The 10-percent increase in mandatory discounts on drugs, from 6 to 16 percent, could potentially save €1.1 billion.

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Monkeypox in Germany: Two teens ‘among new infections’

Two teenage boys between the ages of 15-17 have reportedly been infected by monkeypox, as the number of cases in Germany continues to grow.

Monkeypox in Germany: Two teens 'among new infections'

German news site Spiegel Online first reported the new cases – which are an anomaly for a virus as it has mostly affected gay men – following an inquiry to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI). 

They are among a total of 2,677 people who are confirmed to have contracted the virus in Germany to date. There have not been any fatalities.

Out of these, only five cases were women, according to the RKI. The public health institute said that it does not release information on individual cases.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How Germany wants to contain the monkeypox

The disease – which is not usually fatal – often manifests itself through fever, muscle aches, swollen lymph nodes, chills, exhaustion and a chickenpox-like rash on the hands and face.

The virus can be transmitted through contact with skin lesions and droplets of a contaminated person, as well as through shared items such as bedding and towels.

Many of the cases known so far concern homosexual and bisexual men. However, affected people and experts have repeatedly warned against stigmatising gay communities.

How fatal is the disease?

The first monkeypox cases were reported in Germany on May 20th, as the disease continued to spread in West Europe.

At the weekend, the first two deaths outside of West Africa were reported in Spain.

READ ALSO: WHO warns ‘high’ risk of monkeypox in Europe as it declares health emergency

The RKI has urged people returning from West Africa and in particular gay men, to see their doctors quickly if they notice any chances on their skin.

According to the latest estimates, there are 23,000 monkeypox cases worldwide, and Europe is particularly affected with 14,000 cases.

There have been 2,677 monkeypox cases in Germany as of August 2, 2022. Photo: CDC handout

About eight percent of patients in Europe have been hospitalised so far, reported the World Health Association on Monday, mostly due to severe pain or additional infections.

In general, the mortality of the variant currently circulating in Europe is estimated to be low.

READ ALSO: More cases of monkeypox ‘expected’ in Germany

Will a vaccine make a difference?

Since July, a vaccine has been authorised in 27 EU member states and in Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway. 

The Standing Committee on Vaccination (STIKO) recommends vaccination against monkeypox in Germany for certain risk groups and people who have had close contact with infected people.

So far, the German government has ordered 240,000 vaccine doses, of which 40,000 had been delivered by Friday. 

Around 200,000 doses are set to follow by the end of September. 

The German Aids Federation (DAH) on Friday called for one million vaccine doses, stressing that the current supplies will fall short of meeting need.

“The goal must be to reduce the number of infections as quickly as possible and to get the epidemic permanently under control,” explained Ulf Kristal of the DAH board in Berlin on Friday.

But this is only possible, he said, if as many people at risk of infection as possible are vaccinated.

“We don’t assume the epidemic will be over when the doses available so far have been vaccinated,” Axel Jeremias Schmidt, Epidemiologist and DAH Consultant for Medicine and Health Policy, wrote in a press release.

As long as there are monkeypox infections, he said, people who are at risk must be offered vaccination.