Speech State Secretary Martin van Rijn at the 'Fair Pricing Forum' in Amsterdam

Speech by State Secretary for Health, Welfare and Sport Martin van Rijn on innovation and affordable prices for medicines at the 'Fair Pricing Forum' in Amsterdam (11 may 2017).

Enlarge image Fair Pricing Forum - Amsterdam
Image: ©Photo Republic / Photo Republic
Fair Pricing Forum, Amsterdam.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Welcome to Amsterdam! Also on behalf of the World Health Organization - our co-host today.  I am proud to see so many of you present.

From different countries.

With different challenges in healthcare.

Different pharmaceutical markets.

Different agendas.

At the same time – we share one goal! Which is to provide the best healthcare for our patients worldwide.

Effective care.

Accessible care.

And last but not least: affordable care.

These three are tightly inter-connected. After all: what is the use of a great medicine, if severely ill people cannot get their hands on in?  What is the use of great medicines, if we cannot afford them? What is the use of great medicines when they are withdrawn from the market for economic reasons. Or are in shortage?

Ladies and gentlemen,

This issue concerns every patient worldwide.

Whether you live in a remote area around the equator, struggling to get access to the necessary vaccines for your children.  Or maybe waiting for that certain snakebite anti-venom that has not yet been developed.

Whether you are suffering from hepatitis C. And you know that a promising treatment exists. But it is too expensive. Even in middle or high income countries.

Whether you are suffering from a rare muscular disease. That is untreatable thus far. Or from a complicated form of cancer. Knowing there is a treatment that can save your life. But it would set you back for 100.000 US dollars or more per year.

What binds all these patients is the need for a new approach on medicine. We need to find alternative business models for example. As the current one is a dead end road.

However, this does not only concern patients.

It concerns governments worldwide. Who want to keep healthcare accessible and affordable.

It concerns doctors worldwide. Who want to treat their patients in the best possible way.

Mind you, it also concerns pharmaceutical companies worldwide that are looking for a sustainable business model. A model that also embodies corporate social responsibility.

Again, increasing prices of medicines and medical technologies are of major concern to all of us. As is the fact that we are experiencing shortages of certain medicines around the world. As is the fact that we are witnessing a growing mismatch between the focus of the research and development agenda, and the ones that patients really need.

The current system is obsolete! But the good news is: we cán fix it!  Let me explain how.

We need to speed up access to essential medicines.

We need to improve the focus of our research and development agenda.

We need to think about alternative business models. Instead of focusing only on the current model. Which is primarily based on intellectual property and a high return of investment.

Alternatively, we should team up as likeminded countries, pharmaceutical companies, patients and other stakeholders that aim for change.

Together we can explore new routes in the development of medicines. Focusing on specific needs. But also on decent profit margins and socially responsible licensing beforehand

We should also line up as countries when it comes to fair pricing. Together we will have a stronger voice at the negotiation table. And a stronger voice is what we need!

We also need a stronger voice to get insight in the real costs of Research & Development for new products that come to the market.

And yes, we dó want better insight in the profit margins of the Pharmaceutical Industry as well.

Let me be clear: no pharmaceutical company can operate without a fair profit. And innovation should be rewarded. However there must be a balance.

After all, it is just as clear that no healthcare system can survive in the long run if governments and the industry continue dancing the current tango.

Change is needed. Because in the end – it is the patient who suffers.

What has the Netherlands done so far?

The Dutch government has put the topic of pharmaceutical access high on the national and international agenda.

Unfortunately, my colleague Minister Edith Schippers couldn’t join us today.  She is currently responsible for shaping a new Dutch government after our national elections, last March.

But it was her -  taking the bold step to send a brave new Medicines Plan to Dutch Parliament last year. In this plan she gave a glimpse on how a new pharmaceutical era can be fair to both patients, industry and governments.

By creating better and faster market access for innovative medicines.

By tackling high prices of medications.

By promoting new methods to develop and sell medicines.

By advocating the appropriate use of medicines.

And by bringing a better balance in the pharmaceutical market. Starting with the question what kind of innovation we really want to reward.

During out Dutch EU Presidency in 2016 we put the topic on the agenda again. This time in the European arena.

Now it is time to jointly move forward, entering the global stage. Our discussion today about Fair Pricing is a major step.

Ladies and gentlemen,

I hope that today will be inspiring, constructive and creative.

As we have to move beyond intentions.

From paper to practice

From the drawing board to implementation.

Everyone needs to be on board of this train.

Patients, countries, NGO’s, and the Industry. That is the way to accelerate speed.

Make sure that nobody is left behind.

Thank you.