Health minister: Drugs pricing will top Malta’s EU presidency

Health minister: Drugs pricing will top Malta’s EU presidency

The Maltese EU presidency will seek more transparency in the way pharmaceutical companies negotiate with member states on medicines’ pricing, Health Minister Chris Fearne said in an interview with EurActiv.

Chris Fearne is Health Minister of Malta, which takes over the rotating presidency of the Council of the EU on 1 January 2017. Fearne presented the Presidency’s priorities in the health sector.

He spoke to EurActiv’s Sarantis Michalopoulos.

What are the main priorities of Malta’s EU Presidency?

Of course, we are talking about priorities, which are on the European level. We have two main groups of priorities.

The first is the structured cross-border cooperation. Basically, this priority could be divided into three themes. Firstly, we are looking to make the cross-border healthcare system already in place more streamlined and user-friendly. We would like to see more equity of services across the EU and different patients with the same condition in different parts of Europe getting as much as the same care possible. That means easier cross-border mobility of patients as far as health is concerned.

The relevant directive has not worked to the extent it was envisaged to, and there are different reasons for this. We want to help more patients benefit from centres of excellence not necessarily in their country but in other EU countries as well. This is particularly important for small regions and countries like Malta, where it’s impossible to have excellence in everything. On the other hand, there are centres of excellence in Europe and citizens of countries, especially from small countries, already have access to these centres but we think it could be user-friendlier.

The second theme is the accessibility and affordability of medicines. The direction we are pushing has been under discussion for the last 1.5 years in the EU Council. We would like to see more transparency in the way the pharmaceutical companies negotiate with the purchasing authorities.

So at the moment, what’s happening is that individual member states and purchasing authorities are more or less not allowed to share the prices they get among themselves. I think this is keeping prices high and there is a move even within the different member states to start talking about how we can introduce measures to make negotiations more transparent, something that might bring prices down and therefore make medicines more accessible to patients.

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