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German health insurer calls for end to parallel imports

BERLIN, Feb 5 (APM) - Major German health insurer AOK Baden-Württemberg has called for the abolition of parallel import quotas and more decision-making power for regional health insurers in drug pricing talks.
AOK Baden-Württemberg chairman, Christopher Hermann, called such quotas, which guarantee at least a 5% market share for parallel drug imports with the aim of saving public health insurers money, a "subsidy scheme benefiting a group of suppliers".
Hermann blamed parallel imports for counterfeit drugs recently turning up in circulation, adding that patient safety was more important than "marginal savings" made through parallel imports, in a Tuesday statement,
Last year, pharma lobby group VfA cited parallel importing as a "contributing factor" to explain why medicines stolen in Italy have mostly been sold in Germany (APMHE 39392), although the country’s parallel importers argued they were not to blame. (APMHE 39454)
Hermann argued generic discount contracts were a more “effective instrument” in controlling drug spend, saying that AOK insurers saved over a billion euros on generics in 2013.

More regional autonomy in pricing negotiations

Hermann also called for increased decision-making autonomy for regional health insurers and a more decentralised approach to pricing negotiations to allow for "more economic drugs provision for innovative medicines".
According to the AOK, drugs often have a therapeutic advantage for particular patient groups or applications, and doctors and regional health insurers would be better placed than Berlin to negotiate for targeted use of the drugs in these areas.
Some AOK regional health insurers, including Lower Saxony but not Baden-Württemberg, have already negotiated discounts with Gilead for Sovaldi, although, they have not disclosed details.

More transparency in pharma pricing

The AOK called for more transparency in the drugs market and said in the statement decisions over appropriate drug prices are only possible when pharmas’ "actual research and development costs are disclosed".
Wolf-Dieter Ludwig, chairman of the Drug Commission of the German Medical Association, was quoted in the statement as saying R&D costs, including clinical trials before approval "do not justify prices for new drugs in most cases".
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