Just because something’s new doesn’t mean it’s better -- or even different. According to the German Medical Association, most “new” drugs are little more than repackaged – and re-priced – versions of their predcessors.
BERLIN - There are 20,000 prescription medicines in Germany, but doctors say only 500 of them are needed to ensure good care.
According to the German Medical Association's Drug Commission, only 10% to 30% of new medication is better than their predecessors. And of the 2,000 active substances in prescription drugs presently on the German market, the Commission argues, only 300 to 500 are really necessary for optimum care.
"We could do without the rest of the medication in the future without compromising the quality of patient care," said the head of the commission, Dr. Wolf-Dieter Ludwig.
Tests are presently underway, and by the end of the year a joint federal commission of doctors, health insurers and hospitals will evaluate the usefulness of new medication. The fallout from their conclusions will mark a turning point in the German pharmaceuticals market – any new generation drug that does not offer additional benefits cannot cost more than its predecessor.
The pharma sector is in an uproar. For years the industry has been able to charge what it wants for new approved medication. Birgit Fischer, director of VFA, an association of research-based pharmaceutical companies, says the downside of the new approach is that German patients may not be able to get drugs that are available in other European countries. Fischer also questions how cost decisions can be made responsibly when equivalency issues are still a subject of controversy.
Rainer Hess, who heads Germany's Joint Federal Committee, along with Dr. Ludwig, said they expect the move to exert pressure on drug companies to stick to developing genuinely useful new medication. That's something the pharmaceutical firms are often loath to do because of the huge expense, which can easily run into the hundreds of millions of euros. It is less risky for companies to make changes to existing medication and then market the result as "new," charging top price for it.
Read the full story in German Basil Wegener
Photo - joanneQEscober (tacit requiem)
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