A fully standardized product, but with different prices. How come?

Since 2006, medicinal cannabis produced by Bedrocan for the Dutch Office of Medicinal Cannabis has become available to patients in various countries. Products used by patients in Australia or Italy are identical to the products used by patients in the Netherlands or Germany. However, one difference is the price of the products in different countries. In the Netherlands, patients pay €5.50 per gram (excluding prescription fee and VAT, price as of September 1, 2021) in the pharmacy, while in some other countries prices can go up to €25 or more. Why do these prices differ so much? In this article, Bedrocan explains why.

Bedrocan is based in the Netherlands and is a contract manufacturer to the Dutch Office of Medicinal Cannabis (OMC), the Ministry of Health. National and international laws state the OMC must take physical and legal possession of each harvested batch. Bedrocan must sell every gram of product for a fixed price to the OMC, who then contracts the testing, packaging and distribution of the products to other companies. The OMC is ‘not for profit’, resulting in a current fixed at-the-pharmacy price of €5.50 per gram regardless of the variety. These prices are publicly available on the website of the Dutch Ministry of Health.

How come patients in other countries pay more than €5.50?
The Dutch OMC sells all products for the same price to anyone. However, the rules and regulations in other countries differ a lot, resulting in very different prices in each country. The price difference (from €5.50 per gram) for which the product is sold in another country is caused by the cost of transportation and import fees, permits and licensing fees, taxes and additional regulatory steps in the chain. Until March 2020, for instance, German pharmacies were obliged by German law to increase the price of their raw (cannabis) material by 100% in order to be allowed to deliver a final product to patients. This is just one of many examples showing Bedrocan and the OMC have no control over the final price of the product in other countries.

How does Bedrocan feel about the huge price difference? 
"We do not like it. It is our mission to produce affordable, constantly available, high quality, safe and standardised medicinal cannabis for patient use. In The Netherlands, we have succeeded in this mission. It is now our goal to improve patient affordability worldwide. We feel that it is not fair to patients that such high prices are set in other countries. With the harmonisation of international rules and regulations, we hope prices will become more equal and, most importantly, more affordable for patients."

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