Hulst, a village in the east of Zeelandic Flanders, commonly referred to as “the most Flemish city in the country”, is being invaded today by protesting Belgians from Antwerp who are upset at being overcharged for medication.
A Flemish doctor who mainly has poorer clients bussed some 400 Belgians to buy drugs such as tamsulosin and omeprazole. And the pharmacies in Hulst is used to these ‘tourists’, having hired extra personnel to deal with the Belgian visit, but also criticising the Belgian government for serving its people poorly.
To give you an idea, a packet of paracetamol is 6 euro (!) in Belgium and about a euro in the Netherlands. Then there’s antipsychotic drugs that cost 152 euro (!) in Belgium, while they cost 11 euro in the Netherlands. That’s insane.
Why are the prices so different? While the Dutch pay about 100 euro a month for basic health insurance (part of which is paid for by the government for poorer people), the Belgians pay 90 a year and get nailed when they have to buy medicine. Ineffective lobbying on the part of the Belgian government when it comes to bargaining with pharmaceutical companies is very much to blame as well.
Why did the Belgians visit this week? Because the Belgian government increase the statutory personal contribution on May 1.