Parliamentary questions
9 September 2014
Question for oral answer O-000066/2014
to the Commission
Rule 128
Michèle Rivasi, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group

 Subject: Access to life-saving medicines in Europe

Access to medicines has been a recurring theme in headlines in many Member States (France, the UK, Spain, Greece, etc.) over the past three months, following the announcement of the cost of sofosbuvir, a drug used to treat hepatitis C. Sofosbuvir is sold by the pharmaceutical company Gilead, which typically charges between EUR 50 000 and EUR 60 000 per patient in the euro area for a 12-week course of treatment.

The situation regarding sofosbuvir is urgent and, unfortunately, does not represent an isolated case. High pricing of this kind is not only a new trend but is becoming the norm in treating serious diseases. As a consequence, it is becoming more and more difficult, for example for cancer patients in Europe, to access drugs. Such is the case with Kadcyla®, a drug used in the treatment of breast cancer, and Nexavar®, a drug used in the treatment of kidney and liver cancer. We are all affected by this situation, or will be soon.

The pharmaceutical industry is bringing less innovation to the market while raising the prices for new drugs even higher and higher. Abuses of monopoly rights and patents are harming innovation and crushing health systems. Doctors and medical authorities are being forced to compromise their professional code of ethics and invent false claims of cost-effectiveness to justify sentencing people to death. Nothing in the chain of development of these drugs justifies their cost.

Rationing life-saving medicines in Europe is not acceptable. It is high time to reform a system that has become increasingly dysfunctional and openly discuss the research and development model required for medical innovation.

At present, a maximum of 10 % to 15 % of the price of a medicinal product goes towards research. Is this really the most effective way forward? Rather than paying EUR 100 for a medicinal product so as to ensure that EUR 10-15 go towards research, individuals, communities or states could directly contribute the same amount for research without having to bear the costs of monopoly.

During the summer, France raised the issue of sofosbuvir with the Commission. What does the Commission plan to do to break this deadlock which is proving fatal for an increasing number of EU citizens? When will we discuss seriously the alternatives which – while not necessarily being to the liking of a handful of multinationals – would serve to the benefit of the EU’s public interests, including funding mechanisms and financial incentives that are not tied up with exclusive rights and monopolies? When will price caps be imposed on medicines in the same way as was achieved with roaming charges?

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