• A new report by OECD and the European Commission highlights the importance of generic medicines  to healthcare sustainability and recognises that countries should take up this opportunity more.
  • Regrettably, the report does not promote the use of and access to generic medicines but encourages extreme price reductions for generic medicines which lead to shortages and ultimately reduce access to medicines for patients.
  • Medicines for Europe calls on the European Commission to stimulate healthy competition from generic medicines and also encourage policies to stimulate biosimilar medicines to improve access to medicines in its ‘State of Health in the EU’ report.

Medicines for Europe assessed the publication of the report ‘Health at a Glance 2016’ launched yesterday prepared by the OECD for the European Commission. The report acknowledges that the development of generic medicines markets increases efficiency in pharmaceutical spending, however it focusses on short term cost-containment rather than taking into account access to medicines and the long-term sustainability of healthcare. Generic cost-containment policies have had no significant impact on overall healthcare budgets as the expenditure for generic medicines is only 2-3%. On the other hand, as underlined by the German Pharma Dialogue, cost-containment measures such as tendering significantly increase the risk of medicines shortages that ultimately undermine patient health. The most extreme examples of medicines shortages in Europe are  found in countries with unsustainable pharmaceutical pricing policies such as Romania, where the combination of external reference pricing, price linkage and clawback have led to the withdrawal of 2000 medicines and chronic shortages of inexpensive medicines.

Regrettably, the OECD report does not underline the importance of timely availability of generics and biosimilar medicines in order to facilitate patient access to pharmaceutical therapies and to improve the sustainability of national health systems , which would be in line with the Council conclusions and the ‘Joint Report on Health Care and Long-Term Care Systems & Fiscal Sustainability’. Aside from financially incentivising prescribers, pharmacists and patients, policies should be put in place to reduce time to market and to educate the population on the quality, safety and efficacy of generic medicines and their equivalence to originator medicines. Furthermore, it is important to emphasise the relevance of putting in place key policy measures to increase the use of biosimilar medicines which play a key role in increasing patient access and in the long-term sustainability of healthcare systems.

Adrian van den Hoven, Medicines for Europe Director General commented: “The State of Health in the EU cycle is an important platform to support health policies in EU countries. We encourage the Commission to focus on generic, biosimilar and value-added medicine policies that increase access to medicines for patients rather than short term and counterproductive cost containment measures. Our medicines are developed and manufactured to serve patient needs not austerity policies”.