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Democrat June-July 2002 (Number 63)

EU medicine

Orphan drugs

In 1999 the EU put through some regulations relating to "orphan drugs". These are pharmaceuticals which only benefit a small number of people.

These regulations have given drug companies the go ahead to charge whatever they can for common compounds which have not been part of expensive research and development. The Official line is that these regulations were passed in order to reward companies and encourage research into drugs for less common diseases.

One chemical supplier of carbamyl glutamate can no longer supply it to hospitals because a drug company is going through a licensing procedure, which will give it monopoly rights to market the finished product.

Reports indicate that one Paris based company Orphan Europe with a branch in the UK has increased the price of carbamyl glutamate by something like a hundred fold. The same company has a licence for other drug products, which has then resulted in steep price rises.

Another company British Oxygen a previous supplier of nitric oxide used on premature babies to improve pulmonary blood supply, has sold the franchise to INO therapeutics based in France. This company has obtained a licence on nitric oxide by way of the "orphan drugs" regulations resulting in a massive price rise.

There are many similar examples too numerous to mention here which amount to a ruthless exploitation of health services and peoples' health.