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Open Access Research article

Patient organisations and the reimbursement process for medicines: an exploratory study in eight European countries

Janneke Noordman*, Liset van Dijk and Roland Friele

Author Affiliations

NIVEL, Netherlands Institute for Health Services Research, PO Box 1568, 3500 BN Utrecht, the Netherlands

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BMC Health Services Research 2010, 10:45  doi:10.1186/1472-6963-10-45

Published: 22 February 2010



Little is known about the role European patient organisations play in the process of deciding on reimbursement for medicines. Therefore we explore the current role of patient organisations in the process of reimbursement for medicines in Western Europe. We focus in particular on collaboration between patient organisations and the pharmaceutical industry in this respect.


Sixty-eight patient organisations representing seven medical conditions, from ten Western European countries, were asked to participate in the study. The participating organisations reported their experiences in a web-based questionnaire.


Twenty-one patient organisations completed the questionnaire (response rate: 31%), of which ten (47.6%) demanded reimbursement for medicines. Organisations demanding reimbursement were larger than those not demanding reimbursement. The main aim of these organisations was to create better accessibility of medicines for patients. Most organisations limited themselves to single actions. Only two engaged in multiple actions. Almost all organisations had general policies on cooperation with the pharmaceutical industry, with autonomy as the key feature. The patient organisations said they were reasonably successful and almost always satisfied with their own role in the reimbursement process.


Our study has found that the role of European patient organisations in the reimbursement process still seems limited, especially for small patient organisations.