CZECH REIMBURSEMENT LAW CONDEMNED, CORRUPTION ALLEGED

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Czech opposition party the ODS has called on the government to withdraw its new drug payment regulation, due to be introduced in 2006. According to officials, the law caps out-of-pocket spending while introducing changes to the country's reference pricing system.

However, the opposition maintains that the drug costs borne by individual patients is likely to keep growing. Innovative drugmakers' association MAFS adds that the government has failed to effectively introduce the European Union (EU) "transparency directive," which calls for "objective and verifiable" criteria in drug pricing. The European Commission recently supported this view.

Meanwhile, the ODS has alleged that an associate of new health minister David Rath sought payments from pharmaceutical companies in return for high-level access, at a time when tense negotiations on drug reimbursement were in progress.

Rath denies any involvement in influence-peddling, but some observers note that the health minister is in an unusually powerful position in the Czech Republic. In mid-2005, Rath's predecessor dramatically assumed personal responsibility for drug pricing in the country.