February 14, 2006

Doctors in Germany are coming under increased pressure, after public sector health fund drug expenditure rose EUR3bn (US$3.57bn) to EUR23.4bn (US$27.878bn) in 2005. Health Minster Ulla Schmidt has blamed the spending surge on excessive prescription of expensive drugs.

The BBK federation of industrial health funds, which supports Schmidt's position, believes that doctors are ignoring established products in favour of costlier alternatives with no proven therapeutic benefit. However, "efficient" prescription could save up to EUR1.3bn (US$1.54bn) from the national drugs bill each year.

The BBK is calling for a new maximum price system for innovative medicines not believed to confer any additional therapeutic advantages. However, industry sources are concerned that such a measure would affect investment by R&D-based drugmakers.

Meanwhile, the German pharmacists' federation ABDA has criticised the authorities, claiming that higher drug costs are simply to be expected. German pharmacies -- which are already feeling the burden of cost containment measures such as bans on discounts and increased generic provision -- are unlikely to welcome further cuts.