Press review: Germany mulls health minister’s drug-pricing attack | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 11.03.2010
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Press review: Germany mulls health minister’s drug-pricing attack

German media wrote about Health Minister Philipp Roesler’s plans to reform the way medicines are priced in Germany - and often found them lacking.

several blister packs of pills

Germans often pay more for medicine than other Europeans

“Health Minister Roesler shows courage, taking on the powerful pharmaceutical companies,” wrote the Berliner Morgenpost newspaper. However, the paper went on to ask whether forced discounts, price limits and forced negotiations between health insurance companies and the pill pushers will bring about the desired results. “The German health-care system is mainly characterized by the tenacity of all involved, including its patients.”

The Frankfurter Rundschau newspaper questioned Roesler's decision to leave the introduction of the law until the end of the year. “The problems with astronomical medicine prices are happening now, the health insurance companies are suffering now from the charges.” The paper said that with the delay, industry lobbyists have plenty of time to further degrade the savings plans, and that in the meantime, the insured will have to get used to constantly increasing financial contributions.

“Given the sometimes enormous profit margins in the pharmaceutical industry, the goal of saving 2 billion euros is not very ambitious,” commented the regional daily Rhein-Neckar-Zeitung. The paper went on to say that Roesler's chances to go ahead with his proposal are low, as the FDP minister lacks the support of his party's coalition partner. “The fact that a Liberal is calling for the forced discounts further weakens his position.”

The regional daily Nuernberger Zeitung backed the plans of the health minister, saying that he has come up with a plan that will allow him to take a hard line with the pharmaceuticals industry. Until now, the paper wrote, the pharmaceutical companies were living in a fantasy land. However, it went on to ask whether Roesler will be able to convince his own party.

The Financial Times Deutschland pointed out a sticking point in Roesler's plan. It wrote that, up to now, Germany's health insurance companies have had to stick by the manufacturer's set price for every new patented drug. However, the health authorities only check to see whether a new drug works, not whether it performs better or worse than a drug already available on the market. Therefore, the paper pointed out, the health insurers pay for something they know does not make their patients more ill than they already are.

If Roesler's plans come to pass and price negotiations become mandatory, it is not clear whether this will indeed lead to lower prices. What is clear is that, until negotiations are completed, insurers will have to pay the price set by the drugs company, the paper said.

Editor: Jennifer Abramsohn

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