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Spain Orders Switch to Cheap Generic Drugs

From Guardian (UK) (August 24, 2011)

In a move designed to save euros 2.4bn (pounds 2.1bn) a year, Spain's socialist government has passed a law forcing doctors and pharmacies to prescribe generic drugs rather than the more expensive brand names sold by pharmaceutical companies.

Spanish doctors will now have to complete prescriptions giving only the details of the active ingredients of the medicine that their patients must take, as well as the dose and format. The drugs are paid for partly by the state and partly by patients.

Pharmacies will be obliged to provide the cheapest available versions of drugs, which will frequently mean not the brand names sold by the big drugs firms.

The government believes the overall saving to the state and to the regional governments who administer health, combined with other drug-price reduction measures adopted yesterday, will be about euros 2.4bn (pounds 2.09bn) a year.

"It means an important saving for the public accounts and will, without doubt, benefit most people who use public health services," said the Basque nationalist deputy Josu Erkoreka, whose party backed the move. "The interests of the big drugs companies must give way to public interest, and what matters is reducing the deficit and lowering the drugs bill for millions."

The prime minister, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, told parliament the measures would help Spain continue to lower the cost of drugs, a move that began last year and which has led to the first-ever fall in the national pharmaceutical bill. This year's bill was already cut by 10%, in part because of measures that had increased the generic drugs used.

The change will also help Spain's budget deficit as the government works to bring it down from the 11.1% of 2009 to 6% by the end of 2011.

Posted: August 2011