Copyright: Sijmen Hendriks

“Medicines given new name and sold at higher price”

Seven medicines have cost the Belgian social security system 120 million euro over the past few years, while they could have been made by pharmacists for just 10 million euro. The figures come from research carried out by a journalist from the daily ‘Het Laatste Nieuws’. 

The Pharmacists’ Association APB and the Christian Health Mutual have called on the government to offer more support to medicines made by pharmacists at local pharmacies.    

According to the article that appears in Monday’s edition of the paper it is a regular occurrence that pharmaceutical companies relaunch old medicines under a new name and sell them at a price that is dozens times higher than would be necessary for them to make a profit. Often these are existing medicines that are shown to work in the treatment of other, sometimes rare, ailments than which they were initially intended. The “new” drug is then registered under a different name and the pharmaceutical companies enters a request for reimbursement.    

The Leuven University pharmacist Marc Dooms who assisted ‘Het Laatste Nieuws’ with its research said that the pharmaceutical companies see this as an easy way to make money.  

"The companies virtually never do any expensive extra research as we already know how patients react to these medicines. The research has already been done years ago often with public funding”.   

The pharmacists’ association APB and the Christian health mutual call for more support for self-prepared medicines. APB’s Lieven Zwaenepoel told the paper that “It is of course not possible for a rare illness, but it is possible for quite a number and for which it is taking surprisingly long before progress is made”.   

Mr Zwaenepoel. Conceeds that  "Of course there is a difference” in quality. However “When compared to the needs of the patient and the cost, this is negligible”.