Medicinal products

Making medicines more affordable

One of the objectives of the EU pharmaceutical strategy is to ensure that patients have access to affordable medicines and that health systems remain financially sustainable. It expresses the key challenge and opportunities as follows:

‘Great progress has been made on human health in the European Union in recent years, with average life expectancy at birth in the EU having increased by 3.3 years since 2002. New medicines, vaccines and treatments have helped to tackle some of the leading causes of disease and life threatening illnesses.

At the same time, though we are experiencing a period of rapid change and innovation, many patients do not benefit from that innovation, because medicines are either unaffordable or unavailable. And there is greater awareness of the need to ensure that our use of pharmaceuticals is sustainable.’

Costly medicines are a growing challenge for national budgets as well as for individual patients. New medicines come with an increasingly high price tag, and their added therapeutic benefit is sometimes not proportionate to their additional cost and their effect on the patient’s overall cost of treatment.

What is the Strategy proposing to improve affordability?

  • Revising the pharmaceutical legislation to make it more conducive to competition and reinforce affordability in the EU pharmaceuticals market - 2022
  • Cooperating with the relevant national authorities within a group of competent authorities on pricing and reimbursement and payers to exchange information on sustainable health systems, pricing, cost-effectiveness, payment, procurement policies and affordability - including of cancer treatment - 2021-2024
  • Working with EU countries on non-legislative ways to improve transparency, such as guidelines on how to calculate the R&D costs of medicines - 2021-2024
  • Assessing national health systems and issuing country-specific recommendations to ensure their accessibility, efficiency and sustainability – yearly European Semester cycle of economic policy coordination

Further actions on affordability

Ensuring the transparency of national decisions on e.g. medicine prices and reimbursement, in line with the Transparency Directive (Council Directive 89/105/EEC) while respecting EU countries’ competence to set their own prices for medicines as long as they comply with (procedural) requirements.

Cooperation with the OECD

With the financial support of the EU health programme, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has carried out work to identify how to better manage the pharmaceutical budget, increase the efficiency of pharmaceutical spending and better prepare for changes in the market.

EURIPID project

Under this EU-funded project, EU countries work together to build and maintain a database of national medicine prices and pricing regulations. The purpose is to prevent any unintended negative effects on access to care created by international price benchmarking rules.

Biosimilars

A biosimilar is a biological medicine that is highly similar to another, previously approved biological medicine. As these medicines increase treatment options for patients, the Commission supports cooperation between EU countries to help incorporate biosimilars into national markets as part of its policy to improve patients’ access to affordable medicines and ensure the sustainability of healthcare budgets.

The Commission provides information to:

In addition, IQVIA (formerly QuintilesIMS) produces annual reports for the Commission on the impact of increasing competition on biosimilars in Europe, for which it consults with national authorities, payers, patients, healthcare professionals and pharmaceutical companies.

Reports and workshops on biosimilar medicines

Previous studies and related documents

Related information