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Dutch Competition Authority Will Clarify Guidelines on Joint Purchasing of Medicines

  • 05/11/2019
  • Articles

The Dutch competition authority announced yesterday that it would clarify its 2016 guidelines on the joint purchasing of medicines (“Leidraad gezamenlijke aankoop geneesmiddelen voor de medisch-specialistische zorg” - https://www.acm.nl/sites/default/files/old_publication/publicaties/15959_leidraad-gezamenlijke-inkoop-geneesmiddelen-voor-medisch-specialistische-zorg-2016-06-22.pdf – the “Guidelines”). It did so in response to an assessment of the Guidelines carried out by “Strategies in Regulated Markets”, a consultancy (the “Assessment” – see attached).
 
The Guidelines were designed to encourage the joint purchasing of medicines by a range of hospitals, a group of insurers or a combination of hospitals and insurers. They are supposed to offer a safe haven for specific forms of cooperation on the buying side of medicines.  
 
According to the Assessment, the Guidelines have increased the dynamics of oligopolistic medicine markets but have also added a layer of complexity to cooperation. As a result, the net effect of the Guidelines on competition in such markets is limited. By contrast, the Guidelines have had a larger impact, including price reductions, on monopolistic medicines. Conversely, the Guidelines had no stimulating effect on the market for medicines in full competition, because these markets work well and joint purchasing of such medicines has existed for decades.
 
On this basis, the Assessment advocates for a broader safe haven which will bolster competition in the markets where the mechanics of competition are still imperfect. For example, the Assessment recommends the possibility for buyers to exchange more information regarding medicines.
 
Additionally, the Assessment identifies non-competition related obstacles to the efficient buying of medicines. These include the fact that there is still no consensus on the switching of patients between therapeutically equivalent medicines. Similarly, buyers do not have reliable information on the relevant costs of the medicines which they procure.       

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