First-of-its-kind training targets medicine pricing policies


A summer school on pharmaceutical pricing – the first of its kind – helped train high-level civil servants in the WHO European Region in shaping and implementing policies for pricing medicines. The Austrian Health Institute, designated as the WHO Collaborating Centre for Pharmaceutical Pricing and Reimbursement Policies, organized the five-day course in collaboration with WHO/Europe. It ran from 29 August to 2 September.

36 participants from 20 countries gathered at the Austrian Health Institute in Vienna to learn about medicine pricing across Europe, funding and reimbursement models, methods for comparing and analysing prices, and the benefits and limitations of various policies.

“Governments are finding it increasingly difficult to afford the rising number of new high-priced medicines being introduced in Europe”, said Hanne Bak Pedersen, Programme Manager of Health Technologies and Pharmaceuticals in the Division of Health Systems and Public Health at WHO/Europe. “National health authorities have to be sure, when making decisions about purchasing new medicines, that the price paid matches the therapeutic benefits to be gained by using them. The summer school was conceived to assist and train health authorities in negotiating these prices.”

Intersectoral panel calls for new ways to negotiate medicine pricing

Panellists at a high-level discussion organized at the Austrian Federal Ministry of Health in association with the training event included: Josef Probst, Director General of the Main Association of Austrian Social Security Institutions; Yannis Natsis, Policy Coordinator of Access to Medicines at the European Public Health Alliance; Clemens Auer, Director General of the Austrian Federal Ministry of Health; Sabine Vogler, Head of the WHO Collaborating Centre for Pharmaceutical Pricing and Reimbursement Policies; Peter Beyer, Senior Adviser with WHO; and Richard Bergström, Director General of the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations.

During the panel, Probst said, “We need to completely change the rules of the game because the pharma business model is outdated”.  

“We need to stop being politically correct”, added Natsis. “Millions of Europeans do not have access to needed medicines, as prices are too high.”

Delegates will consider the issue of high-priced medicines at a technical briefing on 13 September, during the 66th session of the WHO Regional Committee for Europe in Copenhagen. At the session, experts and panel members will discuss the main findings of the report “Access to new medicines in Europe: technical review of policy initiatives and opportunities for collaboration and research”. They will also explore possibilities for the development of strategies to encourage collaboration between countries, and national actions that can be taken to increase access to new high-priced medicines in the Region in an equitable manner in line with Health 2020.

The following week, on 22–23 September, WHO/Europe will hold a workshop on strategic procurement of new medicines. The workshop aims to provide a detailed outline of what can be done at the national level, as well as through crossnational collaboration, to facilitate access to essential medicines.