EU Expert Warns Against "Importing" European Rx Price Controls to the United States

Ken Rankin
Published Online: Sunday, May 1, 2005

Although prescription drug importation legislation is gaining ground in Washington and state capitals across the country, experts from the European Union (EU) are warning Congress that this "solution" to rising US drug prices could be a long-range disaster for health care in America.

In Europe, where prescription drugs are cheaper because many countries impose price controls on medicines, the adverse effects of this approach are painfully evident, according to Stephen Pollard of the Centre for the New Europe.

Today, 4 of 10 "breast cancer patients die in Germany?compared with 26% in the United States?due partly to a lack of use of innovative medicines," Pollard warned Congress during a new round of drug importation hearings before the Senate Health Committee. Pollard, who directs health policy at the Brussels-based Centre, said that Europeans with other ailments are suffering even more extensively because price controls are restricting access to drugs.

Among Europeans with cardiovascular disease, 83% of Italians, 77% of Britons, and 74% of Germans receive suboptimal treatment, compared to only 44% of Americans,"he said.

"This is not by accident," but "is the inevitable consequence of the price controls" imposed on drugs in Europe, Pollard said.

"American concern with European ?free riding' on investment in R&D is understandable, and justified," he told Congress. "But the correct response is for Europe to get its act together, not for the United States to adopt the same mistaken policies which have caused the problem in the first place."

Mr. Rankin is a freelance medical writer.

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