Germany’s Health Minister Philipp Rosler said yesterday that he will require drugmakers to negotiate lower drug prices with public health insurers “as soon as possible,” and that a price freeze and mandatory discounts will operate until they reach such agreement.

Enabling legislation for the country’s new drug pricing structure is will be presented to parliamentary groups soon and will in place “by the end of the year at the latest,” the Minister said, in an interview with the daily newspaper Bild.

In Germany, medicines are “quite often far too expensive…that's why we will force drugs firms to negotiate contracts with health insurers,” he said yesterday. The amount to be saved would depend on the outcome of the negotiations, he added, but suggested that they could total around 2 billion euros – the figure suggested in the government draft of the plans which was leaked to the press at the weekend (PharmaTimes March 8).

Responding to the Minister’s proposals, Germany’s associated of research-based drug companies, the VFA, says that while it does not believe prices are too high it would not object to pricing negotiations, provided that efficiency and competitiveness could be maintained. In the industry’s view, such negotiations should commence immediately after the drug is placed on the market and, ideally, manufacturers should be able to agree a price for each new product with at least half of all public health insurers within two years, according to the VFA’s chair, Cornelia Yzer. If agreement within that time proves impossible, then a fixed price following an independent assessment could be agreed, she suggested, according to local reports.

Consumer health advocate Susanne Mauersberg agreed that if the manufacturer and health insurer cannot agree a price for a new drug, one should be set as quickly as possible by an independent body such as the Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG), Germany’s drugs cost-effectiveness watchdog.

Also under the Minister’s plans, prices of drugs which are already on the market will have to be agreed with the Treasury, and this will require cost-benefit assessment studies.