Due to the rising prices of expensive medicines, access to medicines is increasingly becoming a problem, even in high-income countries like the Netherlands. This trend undermines the financial sustainability of the health system and hence compromises the right to health and equal opportunities for leading a healthy life.

Within this programme, we analyse the functioning of the system of medicines development, identify flaws in the system, and propose relevant (policy) changes, so that everyone, everywhere has access to high-quality, affordable medicines that meet their medical needs.


We push for Dutch and European policy makers to take a critical stance on medicine prices, transparency and public return on public investments. It is our intention that more EU Member States will support Dutch efforts to address the increasing prices of expensive medicines and look for policy options to counter this trend.


On the global level, we aim for the World Health Organization to fulfil its leading role in addressing the challenge of high drug prices worldwide, for example by proposing fair pricing models and by addressing the issue with Member States in a framework.


Thanks to our strong track record on access to medicines, we can rely on strong networks and good working relationships with various policy makers and politicians, both at Dutch and EU-level.

Current flaws in the system of medicines development

The fact that pharmaceutical companies can charge extremely high prices is due to the way in which medicines are developed and medicine prices are determined. This is done within a complex system of (inter)national and EU regulations in which major commercial interests play a role. Moreover, it is a system with many stakeholders (including government, health insurers, universities, hospitals, patient associations) with divergent and sometimes conflicting interests. The right to health is vulnerable in that system.








This infographic illustrates the system of medicines development. It also shows the current problems we identify and the (policy) changes we envision to get to a fair situation that guarantees equal access to fairly priced medicines, reimbursed by insurance. (Click the image to enlarge)



Change needed

  • The Dutch government should develop and propose more stringent legislation to create fair pricing models for medicines, and adopt requirements for transparency in pricing and cost at both national and EU levels. Alternative business models for the financing of research & development (R&D) in relation to drugs should be developed and promoted.
  • In order to guarantee the availability and accessibility of medicines, the Dutch government should set conditions regulating the way in which universities and other institutions use public funding for medical research and development; these conditionalities should include the promotion of accessibility and affordability when license agreements are made between universities and pharmaceutical companies.
  • Dutch policy-makers should have the political will to counteract the pharmaceutical industry lobby and check the undue influence exerted by the pharmaceutical industry over decisions taken by the Dutch government, the Dutch Medicines Evaluation Board and the EMA.
  • In order to inform decision-making procedures, the EMA should fully disclose all elements related to the development of medicines, including sources of funding and data on clinical trials.


Results of our advocacy

  • Just before the European elections in May 2019, we published the manifesto: ‘Health first’. Signatories of this manifesto range from politicians to political youth organizations and people who are active in health care.
  • A week before the European Elections, on 16 May 2019, we organised a public debate in the Red Hat: ‘Pharma’s Other Futures’. We spoke with researchers, doctors, politicians and experts about the current system of drug development and pricing, and alternative systems.
  • On Friday 10 May 2019, SOMO and Wemos published the report “Overpriced – Drugs developed with Dutch Public Funding” on public money invested in the development of new medicines. De Volkskrant and NPO Radio 1, among others, paid ample attention to our publication.
  • For earlier results, view our year overview 2018 and year overview 2017 or scroll through the news items on the website.


Ethical testing

Wemos has a track record of many years focusing on ethical clinical trials in low- and middle-income countries, and is one of the few organizations within the EU working on this topic on a policy level. One of our recent lobby successes is that the European Medicines Agency (EMA) is required to submit annual reports to the European Parliament detailing its efforts to ensure that medicines intended for the European market are tested ethically. In 2017 we published a report on unethical clinical trials in Africa.

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Wemos satisfied with unique ruling in case Menzis vs. AstraZeneca

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Reaction SOMO/Wemos to government reaction to report ‘Overpriced’

On 27 August 2020, the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate (EZK) responded in a letter to the House of Representatives to the report ‘Overpriced: drugs developed with Dutch Public Funding’ (SOMO / Wemos, May 2019).

Coronavirus test manufacturer Qiagen evades tax and benefits from public funding

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Political youth and civil society organisations demand socially responsible medicine development

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This is how we can counteract vaccine nationalism

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, national governments have been scrambling to secure treatments and vaccines that are currently in development. These efforts, being dubbed the relatively new term ‘vaccine nationalism’, will ultimately hamper equitable access to much needed COVID-19 technologies. Countries should rather embrace a Technology Access Pool (C-TAP), says global health advocate Tom Buis in […]