Medicine prices fluctuated by as much as 700% between a group of EU member states fighting for better pricing, Health Minister Chris Fearne said on Friday.

The group of 10 EU countries that came together during Malta’s EU presidency two years ago, are trying to band together to get better prices on bulk purchases of public pharmaceuticals.

In 2017, the countries - Malta, Cyprus, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Romania, Portugal, Spain, Slovenia and Croatia, collectively representing some 160 million citizens - had signed what has become known as the Valletta Declaration aimed at lobbying big pharma for better deals.

The countries held a follow-up meeting in Valletta on Friday.

Addressing a press conference shortly after the meeting, Mr Fearne, who is also Health Minister, said that a technical report submitted by the countries in the morning had found that price discrepancies of medicines in the different countries fluctuated greatly, with some paying seven times the amount paid by others.

Cutting edge medicines were being bought at €120,000 per treatment in one country and at up to €800,000 in another, he said.

This ultimately had a huge impact on patients, he added.

Countries entering into purchase agreements with large pharmaceutical countries, often had to sign nondisclosure agreements barring them from sharing pricing information with other member states.

Friday’s ministerial meeting gave a technical committee the go-ahead to look into solutions for transparency of medicinal pricing across borders.

The recommendations and proposals will be presented when the countries next meet in Rome in September.

Asked what possible solutions could be explored, Mr Fearne said an EU-wide information sharing legal framework could be one possibility.

Member states could also enter into confidential information-sharing agreements with each other, he added.

This would be a stepping stone towards the ultimate goal of procuring medicines as a collective and therefore negotiating better deals for citizens.

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