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Brussels, 16 th July 2009

State aid: Commission endorses exemption from Belgian pharma levy for medicines made from blood

The European Commission has decided not to raise any objections, under EC Treaty state aid rules, to an exemption for sales of medicines made from blood from the Belgian levy on the turnover of pharmaceutical companies. The Commission's investigation found that the exemption was in line with the logic of the Belgian levy system and therefore does not constitute state aid.

A Belgian law of 14 July 1994 introduced a levy on the pharmaceutical industry based on a percentage of the turnover made on reimbursable medicines. The proceeds of the levy help to finance the Belgian health system. The objective of the levy is to attenuate the increase in costs of the Belgian state health budget by making the pharmaceutical industry co-responsible of that budget.

Under a law of 10 June 2006, reimbursable drugs made out of blood from voluntary unpaid donors were exempted from the levy, while drugs prepared with blood from paid donors remained subject to it. In a former decision of 30 January 2008 (see IP/08/110 ), the Commission concluded, inter alia, that the levy exemption was compatible with EU state aid rules.

On 24 February 2009, Belgium notified a law pursuant to which all blood derivatives were exempted from the levy. This means that there is no more distinction made between medicines made from blood from unpaid donors and those made from blood from paid donors.

The Commission came to the conclusion that the exemption of blood derivatives is not selective as it is in line with the logic of the Belgian levy system, i.e. it will not contribute to an inflation of the Belgian state health budget.

Indeed, there is no risk of excessive consumption of blood derived medicines as they are nearly always prescribed and administered in hospitals by specialised doctors to a very small number of patients. In addition, in view of the risk of shortages and viral contamination, doctors make sure that administration of blood derivatives is limited to a minimum.

The Commission therefore concluded that an exemption of all blood derivatives from the levy on sales of reimbursable pharmaceutical products does not constitute state aid.

The non-confidential version of the decision will be made available under the case number N 105/2009 in the State Aid Register on the DG Competition website once any confidentiality issues have been resolved. New publications of state aid decisions on the internet and in the Official Journal are listed in the State Aid Weekly e-news .

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