French civil society adds its voice to the debate on medicine prices

On 20 June, France Assos Santé and 7 other major French civil society organisations[1] published a White Paper on medicines prices, therapeutic value and access to medicines entitled “Drugs and therapeutic advance: guaranteeing access, bringing prices under control”.

Faced with significant price increases for new medicines, particularly for cancer, hepatitis C and rare diseases, organisations representing patients, healthcare users, healthcare professionals and students have acted to defend access to best-quality care for all, and to safeguard the French public healthcare system.

Commonplaces mistaken for intangible truths

Our initiative aims to provide citizens, policy-makers and elected officials with information that goes beyond certain commonplaces often mistaken for established and intangible truths. It highlights the opacity of drug prices and their components, the lack of transparency in negotiations between governments and industry, and the dangerous budgetary and financial consequences for France’s national health insurance system. The authors also alert the authorities about the threats hanging over the access to new and costly treatments, while some older drugs are plagued by intolerable shortages.

What does “Innovation” mean?

The White paper points out that talk of “innovation” too often serves to justify exorbitant prices, without properly defining just what innovation means, and without any guarantees that it provides any actual improvement in the quality of care for those who are most affected, namely the persons living with these diseases. Innovations whose efficacy has been demonstrated must be made accessible, and prices should be better controlled so that therapeutic progress first and foremost benefits patients.

Call for more transparency and better health democracy

The White paper calls for real transparency at all levels: from medical research and its funding to the pricing and marketing of healthcare products, along with transparency regarding the level of therapeutic advance a healthcare product delivers.              

French civil society organisations also wish to be more involved in decision-making regarding medicines policy, and they call for a truly democratic debate. This democratic debate must be structured so as to fulfil the requirement that based upon drug prescriptions justified solely by health considerations, France’s universal healthcare system must guarantee access to therapeutic progress to all those who need it.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    

[1] AIDES; France Assos Santé; Ligue nationale contre le cancer; Médecins du Monde; Médecins Sans Frontières; Prescrire; Universités Alliées pour les médicaments Essentiels (UAEM); UFC Que Choisir