This article discusses pharmaceutical pricing and reimbursement policies in European countries with regard to their ability to ensure affordable access to medicines. A frequently applied pricing policy is external price referencing. While it provides some benchmark for policy-makers and has been shown to be able to generate savings, it may also contribute to delay in product launch in countries where medicine prices are low. Value-based pricing has been proposed as a policy that promotes access while rewarding useful innovation; however, implementing it has proven quite challenging. For high-priced medicines, managed-entry agreements are increasingly used. These agreements allow policy-makers to manage uncertainty and obtain lower prices. They can also facilitate earlier market access in case of limited evidence about added therapeutic value of the medicine. However, these agreements raise transparency concerns due to the confidentiality clause. Tendering as used in the hospital and offpatent outpatient sectors has been proven to reduce medicine prices but it requires a robust framework and appropriate design with clear strategic goals in order to prevent shortages. These pricing and reimbursement policies are supplemented by the widespread use of Health Technology Assessment to inform decision-making, and by strategies to improve the uptake of generics, and also biosimilars. While European countries have been implementing a set of policy options, there is a lack of thorough impact assessments of several pricing and reimbursement policies on affordable access. Increased cooperation between authorities, experience sharing and improving transparency on price information, including the disclosure of confidential discounts, are opportunities to address current challenges.
Financed by the National Centre for Research and Development under grant No. SP/I/1/77065/10 by the strategic scientific research and experimental development program:
SYNAT - “Interdisciplinary System for Interactive Scientific and Scientific-Technical Information”.