Eli Lilly CEO says European drug prices threaten innovation: report

Eli Lilly CEO John Lechleiter warned that current drug prices in Europe may threaten innovation in the region, calling for the price of new medicines to be lifted, The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday. He noted that drug prices in Europe were generally "lower to much lower" than in other developed markets, and are at a "substantial discount" versus the US.

The executive said such pricing "sends the message that all this investment in research and all this talk about innovation is at the end of the day not going to be rewarded." Lechleiter noted that in the 1970s, more than 50 percent of new medicines were developed in Europe and 30 percent in the US, although this has now reversed. "It begs the question: is that reversal...an indicator that investment is going and research emphasis is shifting to jurisdictions, geographies in fact where the risk will be rewarded?" he remarked.

Lechleiter indicated that Eli Lilly and partner Boehringer Ingelheim recently decided against launching Trajenta (linagliptin) in Germany after the government determined that the diabetes therapy wouldn't be reimbursed at a different rate to older drugs in the same class. Last year, Boehringer Ingelheim began a second review process with German regulators on Trajenta, suggesting at the time that if the medicine didn't receive an additional benefit status it would consider its next steps. Lechleiter called the situation a "travesty" for patients, but stood by the decision, adding "our position today is we don't intend to launch."

The CEO also highlighted the negative effects of "reference pricing" and the European economic crisis on drug prices. Countries including Italy, Spain and Greece have cut medicine prices under austerity measures, but Lechleiter suggested that "we certainly can't have other countries who are not so affected using those new lower prices for reference."

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