Observatory Venice Summer School 2014

Re-thinking pharmaceutical policy. Optimising decisions in an era of uncertainty

(San Servolo, Venice, 6-12 July 2014)


The cost of pharmaceutical care continues to increase in most Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and emerging countries presenting decision-makers with significant challenges and dilemmas about its future sustainability. Among others, dilemmas relate to how new technologies can be covered and who is likely to benefit; what constitutes value for money in different settings and how can this be defined objectively; what evidence is required to make positive recommendations about coverage and how best to structure reimbursement decisions; how can we deal with uncertainty about the value of new medical technologies; and whether wise choices are made in the procurement of generic drugs in order to optimise the use of new technologies.


The Summer School will build on participants’ own knowledge and expertise in pharmaceutical policies and coverage decisions and marshal the latest evidence on new developments to:

  • provide a state of the art account of novel strategies to optimise pharmaceutical policy decisions;
  • draw on a wide body of evidence to provide a range of concrete pharmaceutical policy options, as, for example risk sharing agreements, sustainable long-term funding, personalised care, assessment of new technologies, and  joint procurement;
  • interpret how such policy options can be operationalised considering resource, infrastructure and technology constraints in different settings; and
  • draw practical policy and implementation lessons to deliver better decisions that will have a positive impact on population health given resource constraints.


The six-day course combines a core of formal teaching with a participative approach that includes participant presentations, round tables, panel discussions and group work. It mobilises the latest evidence; a multidisciplinary team of experts; and the insights of key international organisations including WHO, the European Commission and relevant professional and governmental organisations.

The experiences of participants in practice will be central, with participants sharing their perspectives and developing a concrete case study that cuts across themes. They will also be able to engage in political dialogue with senior policy makers in the region and be part of the Summer School tradition which fosters evidence-based policy-making and encourages the European health policy debate by raising key issues, sharing learning and building lasting networks.

MODULE 1: Price setting, Procurement and Risk Management

Why do we care? – policy needs and expectations

Beyond health – pharmaceuticals in the context of health care

Critical appraisal of methods to inform pricing decisions – implications for efficiency, access and cost

Procurement strategies and policy options – a methodological framework outlining options and the role of joint procurement and tendering

Improving efficiency in resource allocation – the role of health technology assessment and value based pricing tools: HTA options and value-based pricing

Managing risk and uncertainty – the role of risk sharing agreements: evidence from the European context including a taxonomy and case studies

MODULE 2: Rational use of medicines

Introduction to cost containment methods in health care and pharmaceuticals – a conceptual framework for policy makers

Pharmaceutical cost containment – tools, practice and evidence

Prescribing quality – good quality prescribing and the trade-offs between values

Prescribing "right first time" – techniques and approaches  to encouraging doctors to prescribe correctly

The role of generics – pricing, utilisation, procurement strategies and evidence on how they work in practice

Appropriate medicines use – an overview of the prevalence, causes and solutions

MODULE 3: Pharmaceutical policy of the future

Reflections by and exchanges with key stakeholders – institutional stakeholders, pharmaceutical industry, patients and health professionals


The Summer School has applied to be accredited by the European Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education and therefore participation would count towards ongoing professional development in all EU Member States.


The Summer School is organized by the European Observatory on Health Systems and Policies, the Veneto Region of Italy, the WHO and the European Commission.


The Summer School is primarily aimed at senior to mid-level policy-makers although some more junior professionals will be included. All participants should be working in a decision-making or advisory institution that focuses on policy and management at a regional, national or international level. This year’s School specifically targets:

  • national and regional health policy-makers and senior civil servants who wish to increase their understanding of the latest innovations in pharmaceutical policy;
  • senior professionals working in the health sector whose responsibilities require a broad view on the improvement of pharmaceutical care at both a policy and implementation level.

Applications are welcome from all 53 WHO European Region Member States and the programme will be tailored, so far as is possible, to the mix of participants. If places allow, participants from outside the region will be considered.

Potential participants are requested to apply by submitting their CV with the brief application form attached. The deadline for applications is 9 June 2014. 

The cost of € 1,950 covers teaching materials, social programme, accommodation and meals..


The Summer School will involve a group of expert lecturers and facilitators from international organizations and centres of expertise and will be led by:

  • Reinhard Busse (European Observatory on Health Systems and Policies and Berlin University of Technology) as Director;
  • Elias Mossialos (European Observatory on Health Systems and Policies and London School of Economics and Political Science) as Director;
  • Panos Kanavos (London School of Economics and Political Science) as Co-Director;
  • Hanne Bak Pedersen (World Health Organization) as Co-Director.

In addition, the Summer School has invited presentations from a number of prestigious speakers including senior policy makers, renowned experts and officials from key agencies such as the European Commission, WHO and the OECD.


  • the course involves only limited preparation;
  • all materials are available through the web site.

Other information

The Summer School involves :

  • an active social programme to facilitate networking and provide opportunities to enjoy Venice;
  • a visit to the Veneto Region office in Venice.

The European Observatory on Health Systems and Policies supports and promotes evidence-based health policy-making through the comprehensive and rigorous analysis of the dynamics of health care systems in Europe and beyond. It is a partnership that includes national governments and other authorities (Austria, Belgium, Finland, Ireland, Netherlands, Norway, Slovenia, Sweden and the United Kingdom, the Veneto Region, the French Union of Health Insurance Funds), international organizations (the WHO Regional Office for Europe, European Commission, and World Bank) and academia (London School of Economics and Political Science, and London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine).

The Veneto Region seeks to ensure that empirical evidence and analysis reaches national and regional stakeholders and policy-makers. It is involved in comparing health care systems across EU Member States. The Veneto Region is active in the area of cross-border health care and plays a leading role in the EU in research and policy development. It is also actively involved in a number of networks, including EUREGHA, ERRIN, EuroHealthnet, WHO RHN, AER, HealthClusterNet, ESN, ENSA and ELISAN. The Veneto Region, which has been a partner of the European Observatory since 2004, is hosting the Summer School because it is committed to providing a European platform for political debate on health matters, linking regional authorities to the EU debate.