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The Warsaw Voice » Business » January 26, 2012
Business & Economy
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Drug Sales Grow Amid Row
January 26, 2012   
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Pharmaceutical sales rocketed in Poland ahead of the introduction of new drug reimbursement regulations and changes to the official list of subsidized drugs.

Under the reimbursement law adopted by parliament last year and introduced this January, the Ministry of Health will negotiate the so-called fixed refundable price of a drug with its manufacturer. On the basis of this price, the official profit margin will be calculated—ultimately 5 percent; at the moment, it is 8.91 percent. This means that the prices of reimbursed drugs (which means those subsidized from public funds) will be identical in all pharmacies. Previously pharmacies often charged promotional prices for drugs financed by the National Health Fund; some of these drugs could be bought for next to nothing.

The Health Ministry says the reimbursement law will put an end to a situation in which patients buy drugs even when they do not need them—encouraged by the low prices of subsidized drugs offered by pharmaceutical companies. Being part of the reimbursement system guarantees much greater revenue for pharmaceutical companies than when the drug is distributed on the market outside the state subsidy system.

The new regulations, and especially the revised reimbursement list, from which many drugs were removed, have provoked much controversy. After appeals from various interest groups, including patients and doctors, the list was expanded to include drugs such as those used by patients after transplant surgery, those used in the treatment of bronchial asthma in children, and painkillers for cancer patients, in addition to medical supplies such as blood glucose test strips. The list was first published in the form of a public notice rather than an official regulation as it was done previously. Under the reimbursement law, the list will be updated every two months.

No less controversy was provoked by reimbursement law provisions under which doctors were to be financially responsible for any mistakes made when writing out prescriptions for their patients—they were to meet the costs of any unauthorized reimbursement together with interest. Pharmacists were also made financially responsible for any mistakes made while issuing medication to patients. These new rules led to protests from doctors and pharmacists.

Łukasz Sławatyniec from law firm CMS Cameron McKenna says the reimbursement law is a step in the right direction, but it was introduced too hastily. As a result, some regulations are illogical, inconsistent and imprecise.

The chaos accompanying the introduction of new regulations stimulated demand for pharmaceuticals. “The announcement of the plan to introduce a new list of reimbursed drugs beginning January 2012 sparked a buying spree in December,” says Marcin Gawroński, an expert with pharmaceutical market research firm IMS Health. “Fearing higher prices and that some drugs may be removed from the reimbursement lists, patients often bought an extra supply of drugs. The value of daily sales by some wholesalers in December were several dozen percent higher than a year earlier. As a result, wholesalers’ sales to pharmacies that month showed the fastest growth all year and reached nearly zl.2 billion.”

According to IMS Health data, sales of drugs and pharmaceutical products from wholesalers to pharmacies in Poland, measured in zlotys at wholesale prices, rose by 4.8 percent to over zl.23.3 billion in 2011 as a whole. In turn, according to a report by PMR Publications, “Distribution on Poland’s pharmaceutical market in 2011: Forecasts for 2011-2013,” Poland’s pharmaceutical market was worth almost zl.31 billion in 2011, 4 percent more than in 2010. In 2012, the market is expected to grow 3 percent to zl.31.7 billion, and in 2013 by 4 percent to zl.32.9 billion.
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