Citizens in countries like the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland may be seeing cheaper drug prices in the future as the result of a new plan for Visegrad Four countries to jointly negotiate on drug prices.
The new proposal would see an alliance of V4 countries when it comes to negotiating with pharmaceutical firms about the price of medicine, Czech Health Minister Adam Vojtěch said after meeting his V4 counterparts and World Health Organisation (WHO) representatives in Prague on Nov. 12.
The V4 cooperation in drug prices negotiations follows a previous decision initiated by the Polish V4 presidency in 2017, which focused on fair and affordable prices for medicine.
Subsequently, V4 countries signed a memorandum of understanding on cooperation between the V4 countries and Lithuania.
“In my opinion, the Visegrad Four is an increasingly important group of countries that often deal with similar issues. In health care, this is doubly true,” said Health Minister Vojtěch.
Working together, V4 countries represent a more powerful negotiating partner in relation to larger pharmaceutical companies.
“Together, we create a relatively large market,” said Vojtěch.
Similarly, Benelux countries, including Belgium, Netherlands, and Luxembourg, together with Austria and Ireland, also negotiate with drug manufacturers within the BeneluxA initiative.
According to Slovak Health Minister Andrea Kalavská, V4 health ministers have to look into the legal systems of their countries and find common ground to start joint negotiations on drug prices.
In all V4 countries, the lack of availability of irreplaceable drugs is a major issue. The Czech Republic currently introduced the so-called emergency system to deal with this shortage.
Vojtěch acknowledged that the Czech Health Ministry got inspired by the 2017 Slovak legislation, which helped to improve the availability of irreplaceable drugs. According to Polish Deputy Minister of Health Maciej Miłkowski, Poland also analyzes the benefits of the emergency system and is considering its introduction.
Apart from the V4 health ministers, WHO Regional Director for Europe Piroska Östlin also attended the meeting in Prague. She appreciated the opportunity to hold discussions with health ministers at the regional level as well as the fact that such cooperation has intensified in recent years.
Next spring, health ministers of the V4 countries will meet in Prague again.