Dutch pharmacies are in a battle with big pharma

As a result of increasing drug prices, Dutch pharmacies have decided to compound their own medications. According to Reuters, three pharmacies, including Erasmus, Amsterdam’s University Medical Centre and the Transvaal Pharmacy in the Hague, have vowed to forgo some drug company products and make their own medications for a few rare diseases. “People with rare diseases are dependent on medicines that are so expensive that they can’t afford them, when they could be offered for a much lower price,” said Marleen Kemper, a UMC pharmacist. 

The drugs Lutathera and CDCA act as the first two medications targeted by Dutch pharmacies. Lutathera is used to treat forms of endocrine cancers, and CDCA is used to treat a genetic disorder that leads to mental deficiencies. Drug manufacturer Novartis charges €92,000 for a course of Lutathera. Drug company Leadiant initially charged €30,000 to €40,000 for a year supply of CDCA, but in 2017, they started asking for €163,000. Some Dutch medical professionals say these prices are too high. This sentiment has motivated them to compound their own versions of these drugs.

But the drug giants are critical of the Dutch making their own compounds of their medications. Novartis CEO Vas Narasimham told Reuters the costs of its Lutathera drug is justified. He also said he feels worried about the developments in the Netherlands. “The Netherlands’ characterisation that the local medicine that is made in the hospitals is the same as what we’ve done from a regulatory, full-development standpoint . . . is troubling,” he said. Additionally, Leadiant said their medication costs so much do the testing they had to complete to pass European regulations. 

Dutch Medical Care Minister Bruno Bruins wants to help Dutch pharmacies confront these drug companies and their high costs. He told parliament last month that he plans to demand transparency form the manufactures on development costs. “I can and will be having talks with a lot of individual companies,” he said. “And I’ll say, of course I want to keep your innovative power, but temper your prices.”


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