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Belgium launches International Horizon Scanning Initiative to negotiate better prices for medicines

The Belgian Minister of Health has announced in a press release that nine countries have decided to join forces to prepare for the arrival of new and expensive medicines, via the creation of the International Horizon Scanning Initiative (IHSI). The initiative was driven by the current debates concerning prices of medicines which are being perceived as too high, and the participating countries hope to be able to negotiate better prices for these medicines. The participating countries are Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Ireland, Portugal, Sweden, Denmark, Switzerland and Norway. Other countries have also showed an interest in joining this initiative in the future. The initiative's origin is the BeNeLuxA cooperation, which similarly aims to ensure sustainable access to innovative medicine at affordable cost for patients by joining forces amongst multiple countries.

Prior to the ISHI arrangement, INAMI, the Belgian national institute for health and disability insurances, was already monitoring new medicines. However, as a result of being involved in the IHSI arrangement, developments in the pharmaceutical sector will be better scrutinised. Specifically, participating countries will share all possible information on new medicines and medicines in development through a new database. Policymakers should consequently become better at identifying future challenges, priorities and opportunities. By joining forces, the participating countries are in a stronger position to negotiate medicine prices with the pharmaceutical companies, with the view to diminish the cost of these medicines

The launch of the IHSI may have significant impact on pharmaceutical companies, as it could profoundly change the dynamics of the negotiation process over the price of new medicines. However, many steps still need to be taken before the IHSI arrangement can materialise in an enforceable procedure or body.

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

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