Sunday, May 25, 2008

Price war threatens Dutch pharmacists

From Radio Netherlands Worldwide:
The price of some patent-free medicines is to drop considerably from June, some by as much as 80 to 90 percent. The price cuts come as a result of health insurers' "preference policy", introduced three years ago, whereby they only reimburse drugs at the lowest available price. This has led to a price war among suppliers.

When the cholesterol-reducing drug simvastatin came on sale in 2003, it cost 49 euros a packet. In January 2008 this dropped to 8 euros, and it has now fallen to just 1.25. Other commonly prescribed drugs are now between 74 and 88 percent cheaper.

Pharmaceutical productsVektis, the centre for health insurance information and standardisation, says the price cuts mean a saving of around 350 million euros for health insurers. This could in turn lead to lower premiums.

However, pharmacists throughout the Netherlands are concerned about the price reductions and claim they will lose half a billion euros in sales. The professional association of pharmacists says this will cost the average pharmacist 160,000 euros. The association argues that some of its members will be forced to close and, in the long run, others will not be able to offer the full range of drugs available. Pharmacists used to receive a bonus for dispensing a particular drug, but the insurers' preference policy put an end to the practice. ...more

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