Representatives of the European drug industry have met with European Union (EU) officials to discuss the future of pharmaceutical innovation. The UK, which holds the current presidency of the EU and supports policies to liberalise prescription medicine pricing across the union, chaired the meeting.

The drug industry is calling for member states to put together programmes to improve patient access to innovative and affordable medicines. These should include measures to change the pricing and reimbursement of drugs across the EU and encourage companies to undertake clinical trials inside the trade bloc.

Industry representatives claim that part of the problem is that governments are facing pressure on healthcare budgets, and subsequently impose price cuts that impact pharmaceutical R&D investment. The solution, according to drugmakers, is for EU nations only to restrict the price of medicines purchased or reimbursed by the state. This would lift price controls on non-reimbursed drugs and those sold to the private sector, creating a more competitive, investment-friendly market.

Senior industry sources have warned the EU about the migration of clinical trials to the US and low-cost markets such as Asia or Eastern Europe. They state that clinical trials are an effective way of providing innovative medicines for patients, and save many thousands of lives every year. However, due to red tape, the EU has lost its competitive edge and become a less attractive market.