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The UK, France, Spain and Finland have cheapest drug prices in EU

While Germany has highest according to UK government report on the PPRS

The UK, France, Spain and Finland have the lowest costs for medicines in the EU, according to a new report from the UK's Department of Health.

The 11th Pharmaceutical Price Regulation Scheme (PPRS) Report said that, during 2010, the UK had the lowest cost for medicines out of the 13 comparator countries, with Germany having the highest in the EU.

Over a five-year period, however, France on average had the lowest, followed by Finland, Spain and the UK, with Germany again facing the greatest expense. This cost was still lower than the US, which was by far the biggest spender compared to the other 12 countries.

The comparison was based on prices of the top-selling 250 branded products in primary care in England, with an index created by weighting product prices by their share of community prescribing in the country.

The report was welcomed by the UK's Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI), which said the data “confirms that UK medicines are representing good value for money for the NHS”.

This view supports the industry organisation's concerns about government plans to introduce a value-based pricing (VBP) scheme to replace the current PPRS system.

Although initially supportive of VBP, the ABPI has become increasingly wary of the plans, with new CEO Stephen Whitehead calling for any VBP policies to be incorporated into the current PPRS system rather than replace it.

It said changes still need to be made regarding access to pharmaceuticals in the UK, and Whitehead said: “Despite the report demonstrating that the UK has particularly low prices, patients are still struggling to access medicines as easily or as quickly as our European counterparts.

“In fact, ABPI analysis shows that the use of new cancer medicines in the UK is 33 per cent lower here than in the rest of Europe. Patient Access Schemes have helped to improve this situation but further progress is needed in this area.”

Companies need an “appropriate reward” according to Whitehead, with the CEO encouraging the UK government to support the uptake of innovative medicines and understand the importance of drug pricing.

The ABPI highlighted the report's acknowledgement of the UK's high use of generic medicines as an opportunity to deliver such innovative drugs.

With off-patent medicines accounting for 80 per cent of primary care prescriptions, the organisation said the related savings of £3bn between 2009 and 2014 should mean the NHS is able to afford more innovative new medicines.

24th February 2012

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