The final report of the Pharmaceutical Forum has been presented in Brussels setting out principles and recommendations on three key challenges in the pharmaceutical landscape. Firstly, how to improve information on diseases and treatments, secondly, how to compare medicines and identify the most effective ones and thirdly how to balance access and reward for innovation within limited healthcare budgets.
The Pharmaceutical Forum was co-chaired by Günter Verheugen, Vice-President of the European Commission, and Commissioner Androulla Vassiliou. This meeting marks the end of a 3-year mandate. The Forum brought together Member States and stakeholders, including patient organisations, health professionals, industry and insurers. The final report comprises a set of principles and recommendations to increase cooperation in three key areas.
Vice President Verheugen, responsible for enterprise and industry policy said: "The Forum's recommendations can lead to important savings and permit a better reward for pharmaceutical innovation. I call upon industry and national authorities to help implementing these recommendations to the benefit of the patients and health care budget."
Commissioner Vassiliou, responsible for health policy, said: "Patients deserve prompt and equal access to the best medicinal products available, and EU cooperation on the relative effectiveness of drugs will help achieve that goal. I also welcome the concrete recommendations on information to patients on diseases and treatments as a major contribution to EU public health promotion policy."
Information to patients on diseases and treatments
The Forum has adopted recommendations to enhance access to and quality of information, such as:
Enhance quality of information: Core quality principles for the development of information to patients will enhance the quality of information by providing a clear and defined framework and also identify poor quality information. The Forum invites all health actors to refer to the agreed principles. The ban on advertising of prescription medicines should continue.
Increase accessibility: More information to citizens in effective communication formats should be provided (electronic and non-electronic means), taking account of local traditions, healthcare systems and languages.
Generation of information by making the best use of all actors: The Forum recommends Member States, the Commission and health actors to consider new collaborations in the field of information to patients. Such collaborations should respect the minimum ethical requirements: transparency, disclosure of financial and other support as well as definition of responsibilities.
Member States, payers and patients face the common challenge of containing health care budgets, including pharmaceutical costs, while promoting and sustaining innovation properly. They therefore need to recognize the value of identifying the most effective medicines. The group reached agreement on:
Working definitions and good practice principles for Relative Effectiveness Assessment. These could serve as a basis for voluntary collaboration at EU level. A checklist to use these principles could provide a basis for self assessment at national level.
A stocktaking exercise on the existing methods.
A common analysis of existing technical and legal barriers to the development of relevant data.
Pricing and reimbursement
Final pricing and reimbursement decisions are usually required before patients can access new health solutions and innovative companies can obtain reward for their research. Although pricing and reimbursement decisions are made by individual Member States, they share the concern on balancing access and reward with limited resources. Concrete recommendations promote:
Optimal use of resources: A toolbox of knowledge should help to use limited resources optimally. The Group also discussed specific mechanisms like risk-sharing/conditional pricing and tendering and adopted Guiding Principles to help national authorities finding a balance between expenditure, access and innovation.
Access to medicines: The work focused on specific access problems related to small markets and to orphan medicines.
Reward of innovation: The expected value of innovation and potential reward mechanisms for innovative medicines have been analyzed in order to better match public health needs and long-term investments in R&D.
Member States and stakeholders are invited to implement the recommendations of the Forum. The Commission will provide support to the strengthening of the cooperation tools. All background documents related to the work of the Pharmaceutical Forum are available at: