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Firms lose “cheap” EU drug battle


The pharmaceutical industry has been left disappointed after a European court ruled in favour of a Government cost-saving programme that encourages doctors to prescribe cheap drugs.

A total of 90 drug companies took legal action, represented by the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI).

They said the financial incentive to medics broke EU rules as doctors would be steered towards specific named or generic drugs. These would generally be the most inexpensive in each therapeutic class of medicines.

ABPI said the policy contravened an EU Directive that prohibited the offer of financial endorsements or other benefits and the promotion of drugs to those prescribing them.

But the European Court of Justice said the ban “concerns primarily the promotional activities carried out by the pharmaceutical industry, and seeks to prevent promotional practices which may induce doctors to act in accordance with their economic interests when prescribing medicinal products.”

The ruling continued: “By contrast, that prohibition does not apply to national public health authorities which, themselves, have competence for ensuring that the Directive is applied…….in relation to public health policy, in particular so far as concerns the rationalisation of the public expenditure allocated to that policy.”

The judges said the health policy of a particular member state had no profit-making or commercial aim, and any financial incentive scheme linked to the policy could not therefore be regarded as trying to promote commercially certain medicines.

Copyright Press Association 2010

The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry

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