Issue: Health issues

This issue contains 4 sections.


The population of the Netherlands consumes relatively less medicines than other European nations. The amount of money the Dutch spend on medicines is nevertheless increasing. The most important reason of that increase is the appearance of new expensive medicines and the fact people live longer than before.

The government takes measures in order to keep medicines affordable. At the same time the government monitors the working, the risks and the quality of medicines in the Netherlands

Use of medicines in the Netherlands

The Dutch spend relatively little money on medicines. Almost two third of the resources spent on medicines are spent on cholesterol-reducing drugs, antacids, anti-depressants, painkillers and treatments for asthma and chronic pulmonary ailments.

Admission of new medicines

Before a new medicine is admitted to the market in the Netherlands, it must be tested for efficacy, quality and health risks. The Medicines Evaluation Board (CBG) decides which medicines are suitably safe and proven to be sold in The Netherlands.


Due to newly developed expensive drugs and an ageing population, expenditure on medicines is growing faster than any other item in the health care budget. Keeping control over these costs by encouraging sensible, economical use of medicines is one of the rationales of the health insurance system.

Maximum prices

The ministry of Health, Welfare and Sports is responsible for the policy that regulates the price development of medicines in the Netherlands. The ministry does this by conducting a selective policy regarding the admission of new medicines. Insurance companies must not necessarily include the compensation of all new medicines in their packages. The minister decides which new medicines are admitted in the insurance packages.

The health insurance companies are in close contact with patients, doctors and pharmacists and therefore better able to control the costs and ensure efficient use of medicines.


The margins for manufacturers, wholesalers and pharmacists to public prices are not governed by an official price structure but they are freely negotiable and determined by the market. There is no official price structure other than for the establishment of Maximum Purchase Prices and the Maximum Reimbursed Prices.

Least expensive variant compensated

When there is a choice of several medicines of equal efficacy, mostly only the costs of the cheapest medicine are remunerated. This helps to keep control of the rising expenses of health care.

Medicinal use of cannabis

Cannabis can have a positive effect on symptoms of seriously ill patients. It can for instance prevent the loss of appetite that often accompanies AIDS and cancer, and nausea during chemotherapy. Medical cannabis has to comply with the same legal requirements as other medicines. It is not distributed freely: patients can apply for medical cannabis with their physician.

The Office for Medicinal Cannabis is the government office which is responsible for the production of cannabis for medical and scientific purposes. Pharmacies, universities and research institutes can get legal medicinal cannabis from the Office.