Germany to move quickly to enact drug price cuts
* Some price cuts to be enacted on Aug. 1
* Savings for state expected at 500 million euros in 2010
BERLIN, March 28 (Reuters) - Germany will move faster than initially expected to make savings from cuts on the prices of patented drugs, officials from the ruling coalition have said.
The cuts -- forced discounts of up to 16 percent and a ban on branded drug price increases -- are part of a plan to keep health expenses in check that originally had been set to take effect at the beginning of 2011.
Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives and their junior coalition partners, the Free Democrats, have now agreed, however, to bring forward the so-called "short-term measures" and enact them this year, a health ministry spokesman said on Sunday.
On Saturday, a health expert for Merkel's conservatives said the measures, which will save public health insurers some 500 million euros ($667 million) this year, should be attached to a bill already in parliament.
"Then it can come into effect on Aug. 1," said Jens Spahn, policy spokesman for conservative legislators.
The conservatives and their Free Democrat partners currently have a majority in both houses of parliament.
The move is part of a drive by Health Minister Philipp Roesler to save 2 billion euros in expenses on patented drugs. Last Friday, his ministry unveiled the new plans, which will also give drugmakers in Germany only a year to fix their own prices on new drugs. [ID:nLDE62P0XP]
The news sent shares of major pharmaceutical companies lower, with the STOXX 600 Europe Health Care Index .SXDP falling 1.26 percent by the close on Friday.
Eli Lilly & Co (LLY.N) Chief Executive John Lechleiter on Saturday told Reuters in Brussels that the plan will ultimately harm investments in developing new medicines. [ID:nLDE62Q065] ($1=.7502 Euro) (Reporting by Sabine Ehrhardt, writing by Brian Rohan, editing by Maureen Bavdek)
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