About this programme

Working together for better medicines


The WHO issued its report ‘Priority Medicines for Europe and the World’, detailing what medicines society needs, at the request of the Dutch Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport. The Netherlands responded by establishing the Top Institute Pharma (TI Pharma). ZonMw submitted proposals for four programmes to the Ministry in 2006-2007:

  • Priority Medicines voor Kinderen
  • Priority Medicines voor Ouderen
  • Priority Medicines and Antimicrobial Resistance
  • Priority Medicines for Rare Conditions and Orphan Drugs

The Priority Medicines and Antimicrobial Resistance, Priority Medicines voor Ouderen and Priority Medicines voor kinderen programmes will launch in 2009.

ZonMw’s Priority Medicines for the Elderly programme proposal was approved in late 2008, and the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport has now made funding available. The programme focuses on the effects of existing medicines in the elderly, with the aim of achieving more evidence-based use of medication in geriatric care. The programme aims to combine and strengthen the Netherlands’ current expertise in ageing and medicines.Various types of grant are available under the national Priority Medicines for the Elderly programme:

1. Multidisciplinary projects

Three rounds of applications are planned for multidisciplinary projects (in 2009, 2010 and 2011). The deadline for the first round is 29 September 2009. A total of € 10 million is available for multidisciplinary projects, with a maximum per project of € 1 million for up to six years.

Multidisciplinary research will focus on two priority topics:

  • Neuropsychiatric disorders
  • Skeletal disorders

Furthermore, the following generic issues are a focus of attention:

  • The genetic and metabolic background of elderly people in relation to the   (side-)effects and effectivity of medicines
  • Multimorbidity and polypharmacy
  • Over- and under-prescribing 

2. Small-scale projects

Small-scale project grants (of up to € 0.5 million per project) are available for studies designed to optimise participation by elderly people in clinical studies and consideration of ethical issues.

3. Centre of expertise

Part of the budget is reserved to establish a centre of expertise on medicines for the elderly.


Priority medicines are treatments for existing and emerging diseases for which only substandard medicines are currently available, if at all. In this case, ‘substandard’ means medicines that produce many side-effects in patients, or are insufficiently effective, or are not properly tailored to the patients in question. The term ‘medicines’ is used in the broad sense, and includes new forms of treatment based on biotechnology, including tissue engineering and gene therapy. Research into ways of administering treatment would also tie in with the innovative character of this programme.

The Priority Medicines for Children programme was launched in 2004 in response to the WHO report ‘Priority Medicines for Europe and the World’.

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