Amsterdam hospital to make its own generic versions of rare, expensive medicines

In the coming years Amsterdam University Medical Center will be preparing more generic versions of rare and expensive medicines in their own pharmacy, with the goal of making these medicines more readily available and cheaper than the medicines offered by pharmaceutical companies. This was made possible by a 5 million euros donation from the VriendenLoterij, the Amsterdam hospital said in a press release.

The hospital will use this donation - one million euros per year for five years - to make generic versions of so-called 'orphan medicines' - medicines for diseases that affect very few patients. The money will also be used on research into laws and regulations about orphan drugs. And the hospital will share its gained knowledge with other pharmacists, to help them prepare cheaper medicines. 

This is not the academic hospital's first foray into making cheaper versions of rare medicines. Last year the hospital made a generic medicine for the treatment of hereditary metabolic disorder CTX, after the pharmaceutical increased its price from 30 thousand to 150 thousand euros. The result was that many health insurers no longer wanted to pay for the medicine, which meant that the around 60 Dutch people with CTX, including young children, could not get the treatment they need. UMC managed to create a generic version, dropping the price tag to 20 thousand euros.

The goal of this project is to make sure that people suffering from rare diseases receive 'effective and safe treatment for a socially acceptable price', the hospital said in its press release. "One of the most important goals is to map all possibilities together with pharmacists and hospitals to prepare medicines themselves."

Pharmacists creating generic, cheap versions of medicines is a sore point for large American pharmaceutical companies, according to RTL Nieuws. In an open letter last week, these pharmaceuticals raised concerns about the Dutch medicine policy. According to them, the Dutch policy makes it more difficult to develop and market new medicines. 

Minister Bruno Bruins for Medical Care said in response that "as long as there are pharmaceutical companies who simply increase the prices of medicines fivefold or simply ask hundreds of thousands of euros for a life-saving treatment, I will continue to resist", according to the broadcaster. "The value of a human life is infinite, but our healthcare budget isn't", the Minster said. 

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