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Rationing of chemotherapy drugs in Europe a possibility

1 Apr, 14 | by ltempler

News from an EAHP congress seminar has shown that rationing of chemotherapy in Europe is a possibility if the shortages problem is not resolved.

This startling news was revealed by Wolf-Dieter Ludwig, medical director and head of haematology, oncology, and tumour immunology at the Robert Rössle Clinic, Helios Hospital Berlin-Buch, Germany. He followed this statement with the insistence that pharmaceutical companies should be penalised if they fail to register drug shortages six months in advance.

His comments echoed remarks made by Thomas Langebner, chief pharmacist at the Hospital of the Sisters of Mercy in Linz, Austria, that pharmaceutical companies are unwilling to produce generic medicines if they do not make a profit which then leads to shortages.

Dr Langebner said that medicines have a “product life cycle”, going from development, introduction, growth and maturity to eventual decline, at which point companies often develop an exit strategy. He then explained that excessively high prices of new medicines and low prices of mature medicines after their patent expires discourage production of established drugs. However he also explained that these mature drugs are not useless and it is just as essential to secure a supply of these as it is to generate innovative medicines.

Dr Ludwig went further, saying that he believes the supply of older medicines is more important than that of new drugs. This is because many mature cancer medicines cannot be replaced, he explained. He suggested that pharmaceutical companies should be offered financial incentives to keep older medicines on the market. Dr Langebner argued that the price curve needs to be “flattened”, so that there is not such a sharp difference in price once a medicine loses its patent, which would encourage companies to keep producing it.

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