POLAND SCRUTINISES CANCER DRUG COSTS

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Polish state reimbursement agency the National Health Fund (NFZ) plans to monitor the use of oncology treatments more closely in order to reduce waste. The NFZ will require detailed reports from hospitals outlining how expensive cancer therapies are utilised. Presently, the NFZ estimates that only between 3% and 20% of supplies are actually administered.

Some Polish doctors have described the moves as unrealistic, claiming that waste in medicines is inevitable, especially as some drugs have to be used within 24 hours of receipt. However, the NFZ is keen to cut costs, with spending up PLN215mn (US$67.15mn) in the first half of 2005 -- a year-on-year increase of 8.2%. NFZ spending is forecast to rise by PLN1.8bn (US$542.02mn) in 2006, with the lion's share to be allocated to drugs treating chronic conditions.

Meanwhile, the Polish government has urged doctors to take responsibility for purging corruption in medical services. According to recent estimates, bribes account for up to PLN5bn (US$1.53bn) each year. Over 70% of patients admit to having made illicit payments to secure faster hospital admission, access to better medical specialists and more effective medicines. Polish health minister Zbigniew Religa -- a former heart surgeon -- is running a campaign on the issue.