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02 Sep 2020


Health & Consumers
New definition of a fair price by ECL and cancer leagues’ reflections on fair pricing of cancer medicines

Brussels, Belgium – The ever increasing prices of cancer medicines across Europe and beyond have become a subject of increasing concern for health policy makers and payers posing severe threats to patient care and outcomes, the Association of European Cancer Leagues (ECL) Access to Medicines Task Force warn today. This comes on the occasion of the publication of a new definition of  ‘fair price’ for cancer medicines and a series of recommendations setting out how (i) the EU and national governments should work together by urgently responding to the soaring cost of cancer treatments and (ii) how the pharmaceutical industry should mitigate this public health threat.

As Dr. Ward Rommel, Chair of the Access to Medicines Task Force, Association of European Cancer Leagues notes “The ECL Access to Medicines Task Force has become a prominent voice in the drug pricing European debate. We are deeply worried about the high price of cancer treatments and acknowledge difficulties in defining a price that is truly fair. It is crucial to think about what fairness means in practice and how all stakeholders can work together to achieve it. To this end, in our latest paper, cancer leagues have taken a position on what a fair price for treatment is and suggested ways forward for policy makers and pharmaceutical companies on how to get there”.

All European countries are affected. The ageing populations and an increasing need for healthcare services combined with an increase in the societal cost of providing care cause budgetary and affordability constraints for most health systems. However, the experienced growth of the health systems’ expenditure on cancer medicines cannot be justified by the rising incidence of cancer alone.

The paper’s lead author, Lone Bilde, Senior Project Leader at the Danish Cancer Society, said: "Prices of cancer medicines are increasing and so is the incidence of cancer. Luckily we see a quick innovation pace and a great pipeline of new cancer medicines. However, this puts great financial pressure on the health systems and we may end up in a situation where cancer treatment becomes unaffordable. Therefore, we need a focus on prices. In the paper, we discuss what we perceive to be a fair price of cancer medicines. There is an ethical dimension to a fair price, as basically the price should reflect the value that the medicine brings to the patients, and at the same time, the relationship between cost of bringing the medicine to market and its price should be reasonable. But there are certainly also a lot of technical and organisational challenges in actually demonstrating and justifying a “fair” price. We believe that the efforts of multiple stakeholders and a stronger collaboration across Europe in this area are highly needed  ”.

ECL’s recommendations for policy-makers include calls for the establishment of a High-Level Working Group on fair pricing facilitated by the European Commission to connect all relevant stakeholders, as well as  expanding existing structures (eg. the EURIPID database); reviewing regulatory incentives where they may lead to unaffordability of products; and attaching conditionalities to national and EU public funding. For pharmaceutical companies, ECL advises, amongst other things, incorporating responsibility for access and sustainability (CSR) of healthcare systems as part of their market access and pricing strategies for medicines; applying a higher degree of cost-consciousness throughout the value-chain; and increasing transparency and ethical standards throughout product development.

Welcoming the publication of the recommendations, Dr. Sakari Karjalainen, President of the Association of European Cancer Leagues commented, “The ECL’s proposed definition and actions are timely, important and useful. The upcoming EU Pharmaceutical Strategy should trigger real progress in tackling affordability issues.”


Download the paper and recommendations:

About the ECL’s Access to Medicines Task Force

Established in 2016, the ECL Access to Medicines Task Force aims to make safe and effective medicines available to all cancer patients in Europe by insisting on accessibility, availability, affordability and increased transparency related to medicine prices, ultimately leading to sustainability of healthcare systems. The Task Force strongly believes in the power of constructive dialogue. We urge all stakeholders to push for accessibility to high quality treatments, improving both survival and the quality of life of cancer patients. The ECL Task Force connects 30 national and regional cancer societies in 25 European countries, representing over 500 million Europeans.


Anna Prokůpková

Advocacy & Project Manager

Association of European Cancer Leagues (ECL)


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