Dutch House of Representatives listens to Fair Medicine

At the invitation of the Dutch House of Representatives Committee for Public Health, Welfare and Sport (VWS), Fair Medicine spoke at a round table discussion about the pharmaceutical industry on 2 October. Representatives from hospitals, doctor and patient organisations, the pharmaceutical industry, the scientific community and other initiatives were also in attendance.

The round table meeting was organised in order to discuss the high costs of medication and the recently unsuccessful price negotiations for compensation of the drug Orkambi. The House wanted to study how to improve the accessibility of medications and how to limit the profits of the pharmaceutical industry. Doctors, pharmaceutical entrepreneurs and researchers all had their say. It was clear that the House was eager not only to identify problems, but also to find out in which areas the government can take action or support initiatives.

Several of those in attendance, including Fair Medicine Director Hans Büller, had presented a position paper to the House in advance, with detailed answers to six questions that the House had posed. The House asked for suggestions for alternatives from the sector to bring drug prices under control and to ensure that new drugs could reach patients quickly.

One of the concrete initiatives presented is that by Fair Medicine, which works with a variety of social organisations to develop new medications via a transparent business model. Pharmaceutical companies also participate in this initiative. Hans Büller emphasised that it is easy to rail against the state of the industry today, but that it is far better to roll up one’s sleeves and get to work. One of his ideas is that an impartial evaluation of a specific drug should be a standard element of the personal patient dossier.

He also raised concerns about the classic model of clinical research, which results in promising new drugs only being released to the market years after they were developed. Büller asked those present whether that period couldn’t be dramatically reduced for drugs to treat rare diseases. The Fair Medicine Director also criticised how large pharmaceutical companies often buy up their smaller competitors. The result is an ever-increasing burden of rules and regulations.

Fair Medicine works together with ‘social investors’, in which each party invests time or money to the effort. The University Medical Centre, doctors, patient associations and pharmaceutical companies all share the costs and responsibility for the new medication. That way, it is not the shareholder, but all stakeholders, who set the prices. This makes a structural difference in dealing with unaffordable drug prices, in contrast to price negotiations that do not address the system as a whole.