Just to follow up on the news from the UK last week, there’s a report out from the French government suggesting that they might both charge more for prescriptions and increase the payroll tax that supports health care. The government’s fear is that it may end up with a yearly deficit of 29 billion Euros (apprx. $35 bill) by 2010. France is supposed to be keeping its budget deficit to a specified amount as part of a wider EU agreement (although neither it nor Germany has managed that so far!) and health care accounts for 20% of the overall deficit.
In France drugs account for more than 20% of health care spending (compared to less than 10% in the US) and so reducing Rx consumption is a likely target of cost cutting. Incidentally the only place that uses more prescription drugs per capita than France is Japan, where doctors traditionally make most of their incomes dispensing drugs–a little like oncologists in the US, who are now finding that source of income being switched off.