Pharma fights European austerity with product pullbacks

The battle over Europe's drug prices continues. With the EU financial crisis dragging--and austerity measures growing, well, more austere--drugmakers have found their pricing power eroded to almost nil in some countries.

And pharma companies have been kicking back. From public statements warning of a decline in innovation--and sometimes, threatening an R&D pullout in the least hospitable countries--to private price wrangling, drugmakers haven't been shy about expressing their dissatisfaction.

Now, there's more evidence of the measures pharma is willing to take in markets where prices don't meet certain thresholds. As Bloomberg reports, some companies are either pulling products out of some markets or delaying product launches.

Germany is a big case in point. Officials there instituted a new pricing system that requires companies to prove new drugs are better than older alternatives. Products that aren't proven superior can't be priced at a premium. Boehringer Ingelheim's diabetes drug Trajenta stumbled in its first-round review; if it doesn't win a favorable ruling during the second round, the company "will consider our next steps carefully," a spokeswoman told the news service. Meanwhile, GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) tightened access to its seizure drug Trobalt until it and the government can come to terms on pricing for new patients.

Four companies with disappointing product reviews in Germany withheld their drugs afterward, Bloomberg says, quoting the industry group VFA.

Of course, the pricing pain--and pharma pushback--aren't exclusive to Germany. As Greek regional governments have gone deeper and deeper into debt with pharma, some drugmakers have withdrawn their highest-priced products, and others have stopped shipping to the worst-paying hospitals. Sanofi ($SNY) and Novo Nordisk ($NVO) are among those that changed their product line-ups, while Roche ($RHHBY) stopped selling to certain providers, while keeping drugs stocked in pharmacies, which have been better about paying their bills.

- read the Bloomberg story