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Expensive medicine means people die

Yannis Natsis

People are dying because more and more European countries find it difficult to finance new expensive treatments for patients, a senior health NGO official said Tuesday.

Yannis Natsis, Policy Manager for Universal Access and Affordable Medicines at the European Public Health Alliance (EPHA), told the Alpbach Media Academy on Tuesday that due to austerity and financial challenges, many European countries are no longer as rich as they used to be. Expensive medicines has long been a problem in Africa, but now it has come to Europe – including the more prosperous regions.

“Even in countries like Austria, even in countries like Denmark, there is a rationing of treatments which means that healthcare systems face unjustifiably high prices,” Mr Natsis said.

Yannis Natsis

Yannis Natsis says that the trust between citizens and Big Pharma is gone. The power between governments and Big Pharma needs to be re-balanced to restore confidence.

He added: “They need to pick and choose the patients who have access to the drugs, otherwise they’re going to go bankrupt. The survival and sustainability of the healthcare systems are at risk because of these high prices.

As a patient, you get sick and you know that there is a cure sitting on the shelf but you just look at it. For me this is unacceptable, it’s morally and ethically unacceptable. This is a business model, we need to address this, this is not set in stone,” Mr Natsis said.  “Obviously people are dying. This is not about being melodramatic, it’s about facing reality.”

Mr Natsis encouraged EU member states to share information and cooperate when negotiating with the pharmaceutical industry. The EU Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, Vytenis Andriukaitis, made a similar point on Monday.

Martin Munte, the President of Austrian pharmaceutical union Pharmig, defended the industry on Monday saying some of the governments are better than others in discussing medicine prices.

Mr Natsis said: “We need to find solutions because human lives are at stake, public health is at stake. We need to be able to have all the issues on the table.“

He agreed that a business aim is to make a profit and supported the competitiveness of the pharmaceutical sector.

“My top concern is public health and that people do not die because they cannot afford a treatment simply because the shareholders’ value will go down.”

By Emil Staulund Larsen and Gustaf Kilander, Alpbach Media Academy

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