CZECH HEALTH SYSTEM CHARACTERISED BY LOW DRUG SPENDING PER CAPITA

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The Czech Republic has one of the lowest annual per capita spending levels for medicines, according to the International Association of Pharmaceutical Companies in the Czech Republic (MAFS). Currently, expenditure stands at EUR253 (US$305.05) per person. Out of the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) countries, only Denmark with spending of EUR238 (US$288.16) per head and Poland with spending of EUR93 (US$112.12) trail the Czech Republic.

Drug expenditure currently accounts for around 25% of the healthcare budget in the Czech Republic, reaching CZK56bn (US$2.29bn) in 2004. Part of the reason that spending remains low is because of the widespread prescribing of generic drugs. The market share of generic drugs remains the largest among the OECD nations.

MAFS claims that half of the medicines covered by the health insurance system are cheap drugs to treat less serious illnesses. This has left little money left over to spend on modern, expensive medicines for rare and chronic diseases. Industry sources claim that this situation is unlikely to change in the near future, as the government remains committed to cutting health expenditure in the country.

However, MAFS maintains that it is the provision of generics that causes drug spending to rise, as prescription volumes dramatically increase. Not only are generics cheaper but they can also be prescribed by all general practitioners, while original drugs can only be prescribed by specialists.