EU Effort to Reduce Medicine Costs

In search of more affordable medicines, the European Commission has proposed increase competition and to make generic and bio-similar medicines more readily available across the European Union.

The use of generic and substitution drugs is well established in some EU countries, but not others and range from nearly 70 percent in Italy to under 20 percent in Bulgaria.

The key according to Arkadi Sharkov, an advisor to the Bulgarian Ministry of Health is quality and well-developed anti-trust laws.

The issue is an important one in a country where nearly two in ten respondents to a poll revealed they could not afford all the medicines they need.

In Bulgaria the average monthly wage is less than Euro 1000 (US $1080) with many patients requiring support in excess of this.

Mariana Alexandrova, President of the Bulgarian Diabetes & Prediabetes Association, who suffers from type 2 diabetes says: “Patients who are retired, or are only on benefits, or have a very low salary, often choose to treat only one or two diseases out of the three of four they suffer,” she explained.

“They often take the cheapest one for diabetes, and one or two drugs for hypertension. But all the other medicines for diabetic foot, eye, kidney, stomach or neurological diseases… they just skip them.”

Advocacy Action: Do you know the percentage of generic and substitution medicines prescribed in your country? Could it be increased? What quality checks are undertaken, or studies elsewhere used to advise decisions? Are there anti-trust laws in place and are they properly enforced if they are?