Health officials play down drug crisis, admit only to shortcomings

Minister Ritli claims cancer patients can take ‘other’ drugs for pain instead of morphine.

In the midst of a row surrounding the lack of pharmaceutical drugs for cancer patients, the Health Minister stated on Wednesday that “the drug crisis is a false perception. In his view there are only shortcomings.” Ladislau Ritli told a press conference that the government is buying morphine and that the drug is currently available for patients. The Health Minister nevertheless admitted that “such incidents can take place anytime.” “There are hospitals that say they don’t have the drug, I checked, because they didn’t order it,” Ladislau Ritli stated, quoted by Hotnews. The surprising thing is that the minister stated that patients can reorient themselves because “there are therapeutical alternatives to pain, apart from opioids.” In what concerns cytostatic drugs, the Health Minister stated that “they are offered freely through the Health Ministry’s and the National Health Insurance House’s programme.” Government spokesperson Dan Suciu said on Tuesday that the government will continue to directly buy morphine, even though Mundipharma Company brought a shipment of morphine in the country on Friday, because it wants to build up its own reserve so as to no longer depend on a single import company. According to him, the morphine will be bought directly, not through a public tender, even though the peak crisis has passed.

Clawback tax contestedAnother problem on the pharmaceutical drugs market is the risk of seeing cheaper drugs gone, after the companies that are part of the Association of Producers of Generic Drugs in Romania (APMGR) announced that they will challenge the payment of the contribution for financing health system expenditures, namely the clawback tax. They say they might eliminate less profitable products from their portfolio. “Maintaining this tax in its current form could have serious economic and social consequences, primarily for the population, through the complete disappearance of some drugs from the market or by limiting the population’s access to reasonably priced drugs,”  the president of the Association of Generic Drugs Producers Dragos Damian told Mediafax. He added that in its current form the tax is unjust and illegal because it takes the shelf price as its taxable base, a price that includes the distributor’s and the pharmacies’ additions as well as the VAT. Moreover, the tax is calculated on the basis of erroneous data that the National Health Insurance House offers in a non-transparent manner. In reply to the producers’ dissatisfactions, the Health Minister stated that the clawback tax was modified on the basis of IMF recommendations and after discussions with producers.

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