German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder's reform plans are the stuff of a thick plot, and it's getting thicker by the week. The Chancellor seems to be back pedalling on his health reforms, which were introduced with the decisive aim of removing the financial burden from state insurance companies and shifting it onto patients, doctors and pharmaceutical companies. This week, the Chancellor's office announced plans to reduce the burden on the pharmaceutical industry, with government spokesman Thomas Steg calling on the social ministry to take the wishes of the pharmaceutical industry into consideration when fixing prices for medication. The social ministry said the target savings figure would not be changed, but Steg was confident that the industry would be allowed to wield some influence. "The ministry will assess the situation carefully, and will certainly take on board possible advice and concerns from the pharmaceutical industry," he said. The state insurance companies warned against bowing to industry demands on the grounds that a system of free pricing would jeopardize the target savings figure.