The Role of Discounts and Loss Leaders in Medicine Procurement in Austrian Hospitals - A Primary Survey of Official and Actual Medicine Prices
(2013; 10 pages)


Background: Knowledge about the prices of medicines used in hospitals, particularly the actually achieved ones, is scant. There are indications of large discounts and the provision of medicines cost-free to Austrian hospitals. The study aims to survey the official and actual prices of medicines procured by Austrian hospitals and to compare them to the out-patient prices.

Methods: Primary price collection of the official hospital list prices and the actually achieved prices for 12 active ingredients as of the end of September 2009 in five general hospitals in Austria and analysis of the 15 most commonly used presentations.

Results: The official hospital list prices per unit differed considerably (from 1,500 Euro for an oncology medicine to 0.20 Euro for a generic cardiovascular medicine). For eight on-patent medicines (indications: oncology, anti-inflammatory, neurology-multiple sclerosis and blood) actual hospital medicine prices equaled the list prices (seven medicines) or were lower (one medicine) in four hospitals, whereas one hospital always reported higher actual prices due to the application of a wholesale mark-up. The actual hospital prices of seven medicines (cardiology and immunomodulation) were below the official hospital prices in all hospitals; of these all cardiovascular medicines were provided free-of-charge. Hospital prices were always lower than out-patient prices (pharmacy retail price net and reimbursement price).

Conclusion: The results suggest little headroom for hospitals to negotiate price reductions for "monopoly products", i.e. medicines with no therapeutic alternative. Discounts and cost-free provision (loss leaders) appear to be granted for products of strategic importance for suppliers, e.g. cardiovascular medicines, whose treatment tends to be continued in primary care after discharge of the patient.

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