Drugmakers Lose Fight Over Cheap Medicines in Europe
April 26, 2010
Drug companies have lost a legal battle against schemes promoted by Britain''s state health service that encourage doctors to prescribe cheaper medicines, according to Reuters. The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI), representing dozens of pharmaceutical firms, argued that National Health Service prescribing incentive schemes were an illegal inducement under strict European rules on drug promotion. But the European Court of Justice ruled they were in compliance with European Union advertising legislation. Under such schemes, British medical practices are rewarded for switching patients to cheap unpatented drugs or prescribing them to new patients who would otherwise have got a more expensive patented medicine. Individual doctors who share in the profits of medical practices could ultimately benefit from such financial incentives, prompting drugmakers to argue that they breached a EU ban on financial incentives for drug prescribing. The court decided the prohibition could not apply to national public health authorities that have the responsibility of controlling public expenditure. The ABPI said it was disappointed by the ruling, which did not follow an earlier opinion of the European Advocate-General.