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3. 4.

98 EN Official Journal of the European Communities C 102/57

(98/C 102/80) WRITTEN QUESTION E-2545/97

by Mihail Papayannakis (GUE/NGL) to the Commission
(24 July 1997)

Subject: Database of prices for medicinal products

In view of the answer provided by Mr Bangemann, on behalf of the Commission, to my Question E-1486/97 (1)
stating that the attempt to gather data in order to compare the prices of medicinal products in the Member States
of the EU had failed, will the Commission answer the following supplementary questions:
1. when did work begin on setting up a database of prices of medicinal products and when did it realize that this
was impossible?
2. what funds did it use to set up the database for medicinal prices through the ISPRA Institute in Italy?
3. according to its answer, the Commission ultimately preferred to gather the necessary information on the
market. Why should the ‘market’ succeed where the Commission has failed, namely in gathering the
information that is required?
4. the Commission states that ...’it is extremely difficult to obtain comprehensive and reliable data which are
regularly updated for all the Member States’ ... and ... ‘it is hazardous to compare them’.Why should the data
gathered by private-sector market research organisations be comprehensive and reliable, and why will it not
be hazardous to compare the data thus gathered?

(1) OJ C 391, 23.12.1997, p. 89.

Answer given by Mr. Bangemann on behalf of the Commission

(29 September 1997)

1. Work on setting up a database of prices for medicinal products began in 1997. The initial project, Ecphin,
set out to create the database on the basis of voluntary contributions from Member State authorities. This project
had three main objectives:
− to establish a logical model for identifying medication in the database;
− to set up a computer network linking the Member States to the database;
− to start feeding information into the database on a regular basis.

The first two objectives were attained. The logical model is still used today and the Ecphin network was the
prototype for the current EudraNet network. However, it proved impossible to get all the Member State
authorities to feed the database at an agreed point in time. Only some Member States provided information, and
at times that was sporadic, thus preventing reliable comparisons from being carried out.

2. The Ecphin project was carried out with institutional support from the Commission's Joint Research Centre.

3. Given that it is extremely difficult to obtain comprehensive and reliable data which is regularly updated for
all the Member States, the Commission eventually decided to publish a call for tenders in relation to the provision
of data, on a regular basis and gathered at the same time in all the Member States, on prices for medicinal
products by a company specialised in this kind of service. The Commission could of course have gathered this
information itself, but at a considerably higher cost than that which a company which has already gathered this
information for other customers would charge.

4. As part of the Ecphin project, Member States provided data gathered at different times, for different needs
and by different means, thus rendering it hazardous to compare them. In the above-mentioned call for tenders, the
Commission insisted that the data to be supplied be gathered at the same time and in the same way in all Member
States, so that a comparison could at least be carried out whenever the same product is available in several
Member States.