Netherlands to stockpile medicines in fight against shortages; Millions saved on expensive drugs

The Dutch government decided to build up extra stocks of medicines in order to prevent shortages, Minister Bruno Bruins for Medical Care announced. The extra stocks will be built up at firms and wholesalers from next year. This will cost around 25 million euros, but is expected to cover 85 percent of the temporary drug shortages. The Minister also announced that the Ministry managed to save 272 million euros for patients last year by negotiating the price of "new and very expensive medicines."

Medicines shortages have been a problem in the Netherlands for some time. Bruins plans to address this problem by introducing a so-called "iron stock" obligation of five months for all medicines. Stockpiling will cost money, but it will also save money in the long term as pharmacists and wholesalers will have to spend less time searching for alternative medicines in the event of a shortage, the Ministry said in a statement. It also means that more expensive replacement medicines will have to be used less often. 

"I think that in a country like the Netherlands, where healthcare is of a high standard, medicines must always be available", Minister Bruins said. "The creation of this iron stock prevents patients standing with empty hands at the counter of the pharmacy. It reduces a large part of the deficits. In addition, there is more room for the pharmacist to focus on patient care rather than on the daily search for other medicines."

As Europe is becoming increasingly dependent on non-European countries for the production of medicines and their raw materials, Bruins also plans to talk to other EU member states about brining this production back to Europe. 

The Ministry also said that by negotiating the price of "new and very expensive medicines", it managed to save Dutch patients 272 million euros  last year - double the total saved in 2017. "I appreciate the innovative power of the pharmaceutical sector, but I am also increasingly concerned about the high prices of new drugs", Bruins said. He was critical of pharmaceutical firms obfuscating their revenue and pricing models. “That leaves me no choice but to negotiate firmly, in the interest of both the patient, the taxpayer, and the premium payer.”

The Ministry negotiated the market rate of 30 prescription medicines, up from 25 in 2017 and 16 in 2015. Immunotherapy and lung cancer medications Opdivo and Keytruda as well as cystic fibrosis prescription drug Orkambi were among the discounted medicines.