A few years back, a text with a litany of odd events, staring with a phrase „Poland is a strange country” was all over the internet. It left Western Europeans dumbfounded, as it consisted of a list of absurdities completely inconceivable for everyone but the locals – locals who not only have to live with them, but to silently accept them as well – President of Employers of Poland Andrzej Malinowski writes for “Rzeczpospolita”.
As many thing in the internet it started living a life of its own. Thousands of people added their remarks to it. Some about queues to the doctor, some about taxes. The list is still expanding. The President of Employers of Poland would like to add his own reflections on the policy with regards to medicine.
– This is what it looks like in reality: on the one hand, we have an official who is responsible of this policy, for the refunds, and as a result for budget expenses of billions. On the other hand, we have the Agency for the Assessment of Medical Technologies and Tariffs – established to provide said official with professional and objective assessment of the effectiveness of pharmaceutics and therapy offered by the pharmaceutical industry. In theory it looks fine – says Malinowski.
In practice, a positive recommendation for a drug which makes patients’ lives easier and is cheaper than others too, results in a rejection and a negative recommendation – in acceptance. – Polish officials, particularly those working in ministries, get unlimited access to omniscience once they receive nominations – he remarks.
As a result, officials of the Ministry of Health suggest that the price of a particular drug be cut by 50 percent every two years. – If every producer of trousers or shoes can afford to offer a “90 percent cheaper” price every year, why shouldn’t we apply the same measure to medicine? Officials, apparently overwhelmed by the onslaught of information in supermarket leaflets, seem to have forgotten that pharmaceutics are not clothing - they never go out of fashion and neither do illnesses – Malinowski points out.
He emphasizes that although Poland has the lowest prices for many pharmaceuticals in the EU, these prices do not translate to lower prices being paid by patients. – A market mechanism called “parallel export” is at work here: pharmaceuticals are sent en masse to countries were they are more expensive. The value of this export is estimated at over 2.5 bln PLN – reminds Malinowski.
– Not for the first time, when I think of Polish officials, I think of the remark that socialism is a system where heroic efforts are made to overcome difficulties unknown in any other system. As you can see the system has changed, but the logic remained. I think this logic lies at the root of the weirdness I mentioned before. I urge PM Kopacz, who is, after all, an expert on health issues (and hopefully other issues as well) to conclude the mission of her government by freeing citizens from the incompetence of officials – in this ministry and others – writes the President of Employers of Poland.