Netherlands keen on working with India to lower healthcare costs

Amiti Sen The Hague | Updated on May 22, 2018 Published on May 22, 2018

Bruno Bruins, Dutch Minister for Medical Care and Sports   -  Phil Nijhuis

Prime Minister Mark Rutte to lead a business delegation to India this week

India and the Netherlands can work together on ways to deal with the ever increasing cost of healthcare, including improving the use of e-health and bringing in more transparency in the pricing of drugs, Dutch Minister for Medical Care and Sports Bruno Bruins has said.

Bruins will be part of a high-profile business delegation the Dutch Prime Minister, Mark Rutte, is leading to India this week. About 230 business delegates, representing 130 companies, including ones from health and life science sectors, have registered to visit to India. Rutte will be in India on Thursday and Friday.

“I wish to learn more about your country on issues related to health and sport. I would like to learn how you deal with the increasing cost of care and how we can bring down the cost of delivery of healthcare,” Bruins said in a recent interaction with Indian journalists. The Netherlands spends as much as 10 per cent of its GDP on healthcare, while in India the expenditure is less than 2 per cent of GDP.

“I hope my delegation from life-science and health sectors will meet people who have been connected with India for a long time and can help me to better understand what we can learn from India,” the Minister said.

For India, the Dutch Health Minister’s interest in keeping prices of medicines low would be good news as The Netherlands has in the past tried to restrict Indian generics from being exported to a third country via Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport.

Dutch company Philips has been in India for long and has been working quite well in the country, the Minister pointed out.

Bruins said there is a lot of debate in his country on the need for greater transparency on the price of medicines. “We feel that we pay for medicines twice. Once when they are created in the university and second time when they are successful and are in the market. Some of the medicines are really costly,” he said.

The Netherlands is now trying to experiment with a set up in which the government will negotiate with a pharmaceutical company on the price of a new drug before it is launched in the market. It is thinking of using various yardsticks of comparison such as cost of similar drugs in other EU markets to strike a good bargain.

The country is also thinking of ways to shift the cost of expensive hospital care to general physicians or physio-therapists wherever possible, Bruins said.

The Dutch Minister said that companies from his country are keen to collaborate on e-health with India through which consultation with physicians is made possible through mobile phones; this can be especially usefiul for people in remote areas or in difficult terrains.

Other members in Prime Minister Rutte’s delegation include the Deputy Prime Minister, the Minister for Medical Care, the Minister for Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality, the Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation, and the Minister for Infrastructure and Water Management.

The companies joining the trade mission represent the agrifood, horticulture, logistics, education, smart cities, water, health and life sciences, IT, and maritime sectors. The India-Dutch CEOs forum will also take place in New Delhi.

The Netherlands is India’s third largest trade partner in Europe (after the UK and Germany), with exports worth $8.69 billion in 2017-18. The country is the fifth largest investor in India with a cumulative investment of $23 billion ffrom 2000 to December 2017.

(The writer was in the Netherlands at the invitation of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

Published on May 22, 2018
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor