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.

Wemos calls upon WHO/Europe to counter power imbalance for access to medicines

Power imbalance between pharmaceutical companies and governments underlies many problems that hamper access to medicines for all. Monopolies and the lack of transparency in the pharmaceutical industry should therefore be countered. This was Wemos’ call during a civil society consultation initiated by the World Health Organization Regional Office for Europe (WHO/Europe) on the 26th of […]

Covid-19 vaccine

Waiver patent protections is an important step in the right direction

Wemos warmly welcomes the US government’s proposal to the World Trade Organization (WTO) for a temporary waiver of patent protections for Covid-19 vaccines. It is now up to the Netherlands and the European Union (EU) to follow suit. This patent waiver – which would temporarily lift patent protections – will give all pharmaceutical companies the […]

Video: make pooling of patents and knowledge work to end the pandemic

To end the corona pandemic as quickly as possible, we need to maximize the production of Covid-19 vaccines. The few pharmaceutical companies that currently produce safe and effective vaccines, should share their patent rights and knowledge, so other manufacturers can produce vaccines as well. Governments and pharmaceutical companies around the world: make pooling work!

The Medicines Debate in De Balie

How can we keep medicines accessible and affordable for everyone in the Netherlands and the rest of the world? Now that the Netherlands has made a remarkably slow start with its Covid-19 vaccination campaign, the topic of access to medicines is again high on the (political) agenda. So how can we improve this access to […]

Wemos in debate at De Balie: A vaccine for everyone?

In a broadcast of De Balie on December 7, Wemos’ global health advocate Tom Buis conducted a debate with Pia Dijkstra (Member of Parliament D66) and Bart van Zijll Langhout (Vice President Janssen) about the worldwide distribution of a corona vaccine.

Wemos in EenVandaag: patent protection Covid-19 vaccine affects low- & middle-income countries

It was a much-needed optimistic headline in recent days: the developments around the pharmaceutical company Pfizer’s new COVID-19 vaccine are in the final stages. However, Pfizer has so far refused to give up the vaccine’s patent protection. This limits production and increases the price per vaccine – threatening access and distribution in low- and middle-income […]