June 18 2013 | By Márcio Barra
Portugal is becoming one of the countries with less access to new, innovative medicines. In the last two years, only 1,6% of new medicines reimbursed by the State are new active substances, says the spring report “Duas Faces da Saúde” (translated – The two sides of Health) of the Observatorio Português do Sistema de Saúde (Portuguese Health System Observatory), that will be presented today.
This innovation halt has been one of the main consequences of the public health expenditure cuts, and is, in fact, one of the main worries of the pharmaceutical industry. In the agreement signed in 2012 between the government and Apifarma to reduce expenditure on medicines, speeding up the access to new, innovative medicines was one of the promises of Health Minister Paulo Macedo, which, according to the industry, was not fulfilled to this date.
The Observatorio Português do Sistema de Saúde’s spring report is a document that aims to evaluate the two sides of health expenditure measures – the adjustment measures that were applied in this area, and the consequences of the economic crisis in the health of the population.
According to the report, between 2010 and 2011, the drug expenditure cuts have contributed almost 50% of the total reduction in spending on the NHS. While measures like prescription by active substance, drug price cuts and incentives to generic prescription have brought considerable savings to the Government, not all consequences were positive. Access to new medicines was been seriously hindered, while contributing to the crisis that the pharmacy sector is currently going through, with delays in paying distributors and lack of stock.
On the other hand, even the price cuts weren’t enough to offset the drop in purchasing power of households and avoid difficulties in buying medicines. In a study conducted by the Observatorio Português do Sistema de Saúde’s on the elderly population in Lisbon taking at least one medication for chronic disease, about 13% stated to have stopped taking medicines and almost 16% admitted to having begun spacing dosages to save money.
The Observatory’s experts conclude that goal imposed by “troika” to reduce medicines expenses is very ambitious given the European situation. “If one considers the total public spending with medicines (both in hospitals and ambulatory), Portugal needs to reduce this spending to 1.265% of the GDP by the end of 2013, thus adjusting for the European average, and not for 1% of the GDP, as imposed by the troika “