Where big pharma is king

Published on 22 October 2010 at 12:31

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"Why is aspirin so expensive in our country?" wonders Die Zeit. The weekly blames the lobbying and economic clout of the pharmaceuticals industry for the high prices charged for medicines on the German market, which are significantly more expensive than they are elsewhere in Europe.

An aspirin, which costs 2 cents in the UK and 14 cents in the Czech Republic, costs 20 cents in Germany. Oral contraceptives like the Yasmin birth control pill, which is produced by the German drug company Bayer and exported to more than 100 countries worldwide, are so expensive that black marketeers who re-import them from Portugal are making a killing.

According to the OECD, on average Germans spend 20% more than the citizens of other developed countries on medicines. A lobbyist interviewed by the weekly explains that there are two reasons for this. One is the size of the country: Germany functions as a reference market for other countries where prices are often lower. It follows that the cost of drugs in Germany is a critical issue for the pharmaceutical companies.

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The second is deregulation: the laboratories are "free to set prices and charge what they want to insurance companies," explains Die Zeit. Procedures for the autorisation and distribution of new pharmaceuticals are also much faster and easier to implement in Germany. Elsewhere in Europe, "only Malta and Denmark offer such preferential conditions to producers."

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