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Belgian Minister of Health introduces new measures that will produce significant annual savings

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In the beginning of March, the Belgian Public Health Committee approved five measures introduced by the Belgian Minister of Health that aim to reduce the price of medicines on the off-patent market. These measures, which will enter into force on 1 April 2019, will result in savings of EUR 10 million a year for the patient and EUR 96 million a year for the government.

Two of the most important measures are the following:

1. The “volume cliff”, an addition to the previously adopted “patent cliff” measure, which aimed at allowing the prices of all medicines to drop sharply after patent expiry. The new volume cliff measure will prevent the price from dropping randomly and will ensure that medicines that are sold in a higher volume will drop more sharply in price. In addition, this new measure seeks to further reduce the price of medicines for which no generic alternative is available. It is expected that the “volume cliff” measure will save EUR 55 million a year, both for the patient and for the Belgian government.

2. In January 2018, the Belgian Minister of Health introduced the concept of a price ceiling for medicines sold in traditional pharmacies. This measure is now being extended to medicines sold in hospitals. This implies that, two years after a medicine’s patent has expired, the Belgian health insurance will only refund the cheapest alternative. In addition, doctors working in hospitals are encouraged to prescribe this cheapest alternative. The Minister of Health hopes to save EUR 9 million a year with this measure.

This article was co-authored by Céline Verstraete.

A prior version of this post was originally published by the same authors in Practical Law - Life Sciences, March 2019 Issue (Thomson Reuters).