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Health in France

New Controls on Prescription Medicines

Friday 01 December 2006

With the costs of the health service continuing to spiral, the French government has been removing from the list of prescribed medicines those they do not consider offer good value. In the main, they are ‘branded’ drugs, which are considered expensive to the public purse, often of dubious medical value, and where there exists a cheaper generic alternative.

Even if the branded drug is kept on the list of prescribed medicines, the level of reimbursement to the patient from the social security system is being reduced.

Where a medicine might previously have been reimbursed at the rate of 60%, some will now only receive 35%, 15% or even 0%.

Since 2003 several hundred drugs have effectively been removed from the chemists shelves. If you now want a drug that is not on the prescribed list, then you will need to pay directly from your pocket to use it or pay for a ‘top-up’ health insurance policy that picks up the cost.

With the price of many branded drugs no longer controlled by the health system, the powerful French pharmaceutical industry has reacted by sharply pushing up the prices of some of these drugs, in the full knowledge that there are those who will continue to pay for them, whatever the cost.

The French spend more on medicines than any other country in Europe and, if the government are to get control of health service costs, then the prescription medical bill will need to continue to be high on the list of cost saving measures.

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