Off-patent brand medicines are originator medicines whose patent has expired. To be considered cheap, their price must have decreased to a level generally comparable to that of most generic or biosimilar medicines. Cheap branded medicines help to keep healthcare accessible.
Medaxes aims to have the best healthcare made available to as many people as possible. Since financial resources are limited, treatments must be as efficient or cost-effective as possible. This means that for every euro spent by the patient or the health insurance, the highest possible health gain should be the goal.
Generic and biosimilar medicines play a key role in this, as they break monopolies and bring competition to the market once the patents on the branded medicines have expired. This will significantly decrease prices, which in turn will reduce expenditure.
However, once competition has been initiated from generic and biosimilar medicines competitors, off-patent branded medicines can of course also participate in the market dynamics. It is, incidentally, typical of our country that off-patent branded medicines are given an explicit role in medicines policy. Central to this is the concept of 'cheap medicine'. Not only generic or biosimilar medicines qualify for being considered a 'cheap medicine', but also off-patent branded medicines that have dropped their price to a level that is generally comparable to the corresponding generic or biosimilar medicine.
As such, there are currently 4,187 cheap medicines available in the 'reference reimbursement' category (i.e. medicines for which a reimbursed generic alternative is available). Of these, 2,915 are generic medicines, 1,272 are cheap branded medicines.
Finally, for the proper functioning of the market for off-patent medicines, it is important that generic and biosimilar challengers on the one hand and branded medicines on the other can function on an equal footing. In this context, one often speaks of a 'level playing field'.
And yet, this 'level playing field' proves to be precarious in a number of cases. The difficult uptake of a number of biosimilar medicines in our country could be an indication that there is something wrong with the smooth market access of biosimilar medicines. For Medaxes, it is therefore important that these barriers are being lifted. In order to eliminate the backlog of, for instance, biosimilar medicines, it may therefore be appropriate, in a number of cases, to temporarily support their specific use, for instance by setting prescription quotas for biosimilar medicines.