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Who does it better? Assessing a value-based drug price in Europe vs the US

The Lyfegen Editorial Team

U.S. and European healthcare payers are increasing their utilization of value-based drug pricing agreements to hold down drug costs, bring better value and improvements to health outcomes, and determine a fair price for new drugs. The question of who does the assessments to determine a drug’s fair price is answered differently in the EU than in the U.S.


National healthcare leaders have a common problem to solve and a common goal to achieve. The problem is how to protect national healthcare budgets from overwhelming drug costs without discouraging pharmaceutical manufacturers from developing new products. The goal is to provide populations with equitable access to innovative, safe, clinically effective, and cost-effective healthcare therapies.

In the U.S., payers and policymakers are trying to control drug expenditures and determine the value of new drugs in an opaque, free-market environment. In Europe, government price controls and centralized clinical and economic evaluations of new drugs are standard. For both these pharmaceutical markets, drug pricing agreements based on value instead of volume are gaining traction.

The problem: drug prices keep rising

Pharmaceutical sales in Europe are almost a quarter of all drug sales globally. From 2015 to 2020, the top five European markets–the UK, Germany, France, Italy, and Spain–accounted for 17.4% of sales of new drug therapies. These top five markets are predicted to increase spending by $51 billion through 2026.

North America is the largest pharmaceutical market, accounting for almost half of the total global sales. From 2015 through 2020, the U.S. purchased 63.7% of all the new medicines introduced. The U.S. is expected to increase drug spending by an estimated $119 billion through 2026.

According to IQVIA, a leading healthcare consulting firm, the change in drug spending in the U.S. and European markets through 2026 will be due, in large part, to new brands.

The goal: access to new, high-quality drug treatments at a fair price

Healthcare payers don’t want to take on the financial risk and clinical uncertainty of a new, high-cost pharmaceutical product. Payers want to provide patients with equitable access to innovative treatments that improve health outcomes, especially in therapeutic areas with unmet health needs.

Value-based drug pricing arrangements address these concerns with evidence-driven, outcome-based agreements. The payer and manufacturer share the risks of a new drug not performing as expected. In both the U.S. and the EU, payers and manufacturers are engaged in more finance-based drug pricing contracts than performance-based contracts–but this trend is shifting.

Assessing a drug’s value in the EU healthcare system

Value-based drug pricing arrangements are called managed entry agreements (MEAs) in Europe. MEAs between drug manufacturers and healthcare payers can be finance-based (FBAs), performance-based (PBAs), or service-based agreements (SBAs).

Unlike the U.S., the EU has a centralized system for assessing a drug’s value. Each EU member state has an agency that uses an evidence-based data gathering process called health technology assessments (HTAs). HTAs include nine domains for assessment–four clinical and five non-clinical–that evaluate the efficacy and added value of a new drug compared to other treatment options already available on the market.

The work of the member states’ HTA bodies is coordinated by the European Network for Health Technology Assessment (EUnetHTA). However, conclusions and decisions related to drug pricing and reimbursement remain de-centralized.

Coverage with Evidence Development (CED) may be a part of an MEA and come after the HTA. CED is a way for urgently needed treatments to come to market under conditional approval while real-world evidence continues to be collected. This additional data should help payers decide about coverage. CED use varies by country, with the most CED found in the UK and the U.S. (through Medicare).

Assessing a drug’s value in the US healthcare system

The possibility of developing a centralized Health Technology Assessment for the U.S. Healthcare System was the focus and title of a white paper published in early 2020 by the University of Southern California Leonard D. Schaeffer Center for Health Policy & Economics.

The white paper describes the complexities of creating a national HTA organization in the U.S. It examines the difficult dynamics of the many stakeholders in the healthcare system; few are operating with enough transparency and coordination with other stakeholders to support value-based drug pricing. The authors conclude that in the current polarized legislative environment in the U.S., an attempt to develop a national HTA organization would be met with strong political resistance.

In the absence of the European-style centralized HTA body, U.S. payers look to alternative sources for the data they need for drug pricing negotiations. Private and public payers may find clinical and economic evaluations from various agencies that do HTAs on a limited scale. These include government and independent organizations, such as the Department of Veteran’s Affairs, Medicaid, the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI), and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). One of the most influential organizations in this space is the independent, non-profit Institute for Clinical and Economic Review (ICER).

Unfortunately, these organizations don’t do value-based pricing evaluations for every drug that comes on the market, and some of their work is not publicly available. Even if analysis of a selected drug is available, it may not cover the key metrics a customized value-based drug pricing agreement needs to track.

When real-world data about a drug’s performance is limited, it’s often up to the manufacturer and payer entering the value-based contract to develop the framework and the data collection and analysis capability, either in-house or through a third-party vendor.

The Lyfegen Solution

The Lyfegen Platform is a customizable solution for healthcare payers, pharma, and medtech companies who need to gather and analyze real-world evidence about a drug’s performance for value-based drug pricing agreements. Lyfegen’s value-based contracting software collects real-world data and uses intelligent algorithms to provide valuable insights into clinical effectiveness and costs.

Lyfegen’s contracting platform helps implement and scale value-based drug pricing contracts with greater efficiency and transparency. By enabling the shift away from volume-based, fee-for-service healthcare to value-based healthcare, Lyfegen increases access to healthcare treatments and their affordability.

To learn more about Lyfegen’s software solutions, contact us to book a demo.


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