The drug pricing master
Name: Jürgen Windeler
Title: Director, The Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care
Jürgen Windeler may not be a widely known name in Big Pharma. But it should be, considering the medical doctor and researcher's enormous influence on drug pricing. Windeler heads The Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care in Germany, which is known by its even more obscure acronym--IQWiG. And the agency fields pharmaceutical assessment and pricing for the German healthcare market, watched closely by other countries.
But Windeler and his organization's most influential contribution to the industry to date is also highly controversial, stemming from the global economic crash a few years back and the resulting crisis over the euro and Germany's austerity measures. Cutting costs led in part to healthcare pricing reform and a major drug pricing change where Windeler's group holds sway. Drug companies must now prove their new treatments are superior to existing market alternatives to sell them at higher prices. If they can't make their case, then the government sets the price.
The drug industry has united against the measure. In June, the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations and the German Association of Research-Based Pharmaceutical Companies warned that the pricing change "poses a challenge to patient health and to the reputation of Germany as a home of innovation."
While some provisions have been softened since the measure first started, the process remains, and Big Pharma has rarely been happy. In September 2011, for example, Eli Lilly ($LLY) and Boehringer Ingelheim decided not to sell their diabetes drug Trajenta in Germany due to Germany's new pricing system, though it's available elsewhere in Europe. The companies released a statement highlighting their displeasure and asserting that the new system doesn't adequately consider a drug's benefits. Novartis ($NVS) also faced a sobering experience, pulling its blood pressure medication Rasilamlo from the German market only three months after introducing it, bristling under the new system. AstraZeneca ($AZN) fared better, generating some surprise in the industry in October 2011 when it gained a positive rating for its blood thinner Brilique (Brilinta) in Germany's first drug assessment under the new evaluation process.
Windeler, meanwhile, told Aerzteblatt.de in a February 2012 interview that he sees the quality-assessment process as working well, to the point that it should be extended to medical devices.
-- Mark Hollmer (email | Twitter)