Patients plot to bring down European drug prices

Just Treatment joined cancer patients and campaigners from across Western Europe to tackle the deadly impact of high drug prices on patients. We found shocking similarities between countries on the issues they face, like extortionate drug prices, stretching of health budgets and rationing of medicines. Bringing together patients, activists, doctors and health experts, the meeting created lively debate on how best to achieve fundamental reform in our current research and development (R&D) system.

 The Just Treatment team

The Just Treatment team

We all agreed on the unfairness of the current system... rationing access is not an acceptable policy.
— Manon Ress (Union for Affordable Cancer Treatment, UACT)
Things need to change and this can only be done with pressure from patient groups.  We are the ones who are affected and dying due to no access.
— Jo Taylor (Just Treatment)

Mel Kennedy, a Just Treatment patient leader with first-hand experience of the high price of breast cancer medicines, spoke about the flawed system in the UK that led to her having to crowdfund her own treatment, which was not available in Northern Ireland. Across the rest of the UK the same medicine, Kadcyla, was strictly rationed for many years as the NHS was unable to afford the £90,000 per year price tag. The true cost of manufacturing the medicine is likely to be a tiny fraction of this number. Meanwhile new research suggests that the cost of researching and developing innovative cancer drugs is significantly lower than the pharmaceutical industry claims.

Discussions led to a range of potential bold solutions for the problems we are facing, from raising awareness on drug price disparity between countries to pushing governments to issue compulsory licences that would drive down the price of important medicines for patients who need them.

We agreed on three priority demands that will help fix these problems:

  1. More transparency of price negotiations with the pharmaceutical industry so that taxpayers know how their money is being spent;

  2. A government study on different ways of doing R&D that separate the cost of research from the final drug price;

  3. And more involvement of patient groups so that we can build a patient-led movement for better access to medicines.

It was our pleasure to meet the Just Treatment crew. Great people, ideas and insights that we need in the movement.
— Irene Bernal (Salud por Derecho)
Kamil McClelland