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.”

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


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.